7:40am Friday 23rd May 2014
By Ross Heppenstall
Antonio Kaufusi admits he is champing at the bit to face Catalan Dragons tomorrow after being reduced to the role of spectator during the Magic Weekend defeat to Huddersfield.
The on-loan Giants prop, 29, is poised to return to the side in Perpignan after being denied permission to face his parent club at the Etihad Stadium under the terms of his one-month loan.
While Francis Cummins’ injury-hit side were losing 54-16 last Sunday, Kaufusi could only watch on in frustration from his sofa at home.
Now he is bracing himself for a tough battle against the Dragons’ notoriously physical pack.
Kaufusi said: “I just watched the Magic Weekend game at home last week and it was disappointing not to be able to help the boys.
“Obviously I don’t want to miss any games but it was part of the agreement that I couldn’t play against Huddersfield.
“I rested up and am looking forward to ripping in this week against Catalan now.
“It’s tough out there in the south of France because they have got a really passionate fanbase and the Catalan boys are particularly strong on home soil.
“It’s always going to be a tough match and the Dragons do have some big forwards. But the challenge for our pack is to rip in and I’m certainly raring to go.”
As with Anthony Mullally’s successful loan spell at Odsal earlier in the season, Huddersfield are monitoring Kaufusi’s performances.
He can play against Catalan tomorrow and in next weekend’s pivotal home match with Wakefield before his loan expires.
Kaufusi said: “The Giants do call me after games and see how I’ve gone.
“But I’m really enjoying my time here at Bradford. I knew some of the boys already and couldn’t have gone to a better club.
“I can’t count anything in or out because it depends on what Huddersfield want from me.”
The Tonga-born prop boasts an impressive pedigree which includes an NRL career with Melbourne Storm, North Queensland Cowboys and Newcastle Knights, not to mention representative honours with Australia, Tonga, Queensland and the Exiles.
Cummins admits he has been hugely impressed with the former London Broncos star in his two appearances for the Bulls so far against Warrington and St Helens.
Asked if he would like to keep Kaufusi beyond his initial one-month deal, the Bulls head coach said: “I decided I would like to keep him after about ten minutes of his first game.
“But it doesn’t work like that because you don’t know where Huddersfield are and what their situation is.
“It will be down to Huddersfield but, after ten minutes of his debut against Warrington, I would have taken him for the rest of the year.”
The Bulls are boosted by the return of not only Kaufusi but also James Donaldson and Manase Manuokafoa, who have been sidelined with ankle and hamstring injuries respectively.
Jordan Baldwinson has also been included and looks set to make his debut with both Chev Walker and Matt Diskin absent due to carrying knocks.
Manuokafoa played with Kaufusi for the Cowboys and is looking forward to being reunited with his fellow Tongan.
“Missing the last three games has been massively frustrating, especially with us being pretty short up front,” said Manuokafoa.
“The boys have put a huge amount of effort in, despite the difficult circumstances with injuries, but we are getting the bodies back now, which is great.
“I should be good to go for this weekend and that means I will get to play with my buddy Antonio. I am really excited about that.
“This game is an extremely important one. We need a result and that is what we intend to get.
“The Dragons are always strong on their own patch but we beat them in the Challenge Cup and believe we can do it again in France.
“I am very confident in the ability of my team-mates.
“We just need to stick to the game plan and get the job done.”
Catalan have included former Bulls trio Leon Pryce, Elliott Whitehead and Olivier Elima.
Meanwhile, it was revealed yesterday that the Bulls’ appeal into their six-point penalty for entering administration will be heard by an independent sporting sanctions appeals panel on Wednesday, June 4.
The outcome is expected to be known within seven days of the hearing.
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