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Wolves cubs will beef up Bradford Bulls squad
Francis Cummins believes James Saltonstall, Joe Philbin and Tom Walker will give the Bulls' squad much-needed depth – and possibly open the door for an extended stay at Odsal.
The trio of highly-regarded Warrington youngsters will spend the next month training with Cummins’ squad and are in line to play in the pre-season friendlies against Hull FC, Dewsbury and Castleford.
Utility back Saltonstall, a 20-year-old from Halifax, was part of Italy’s World Cup squad and played in the side which claimed an historic win over England in October.
Second-rower Philbin, 19, hails from the Warrington area, and Cumbrian prop Walker, also 19, will bolster the Bulls’ numbers up front, much to Cummins’ delight.
The Bulls head coach said the four-week loan deals stemmed from his close working relationship with Warrington boss Tony Smith, which brought Matty Blythe and Ben Evans to Odsal last season.
Cummins said: “I was speaking to Tony about these lads who were training full-time but haven’t made Warrington’s pre-season trip to Australia.
“There was an opportunity for them to come and join us for a month, train full-time, play in our friendlies and then who knows?
“They’ll probably go back to Warrington but we’ll see where we are and there could be scope for a longer stay perhaps.
“They certainly all have a good pedigree. James is 20 now, so he’s out of under-19s contention and is looking for an opportunity.
“Warrington are one of those clubs, like Leeds and Wigan, who are probably stacked up with youngsters.
“Sometimes the pathway is tough for them to get an opportunity, so they have to do it another way. They have to go somewhere else to come back or not and I think James is in that category.
“Tom and Joe are a year younger, so they can play under-19s. They are still developing and it will only benefit them from being in a full-time environment for a month.”
All three players came off the bench in Wolves’ 36-32 friendly defeat of Widnes Vikings on December 29.
Cummins admitted taking players on loan could be an ideal way for the Bulls to go in the light of their financial problems.
The Bulls coach said: “Bradford aren’t where they were in 2004, 2005 or 2006. We have to do it a different way and I think this is going to be the pattern for us unless we get a millionaire owner.
“This fits me as a coach; to go and get promising young lads who have the desire and just need an opportunity to improve themselves and their new club.
“That ties into everything we have here about players investing in their careers.
“If these lads have that sort of desire then they will fit into this group because the environment has been tremendous.”
So far, only Frank Winterstein has left the Bulls, and Cummins is hopeful there will be no further departures.
Indeed, he is aiming to add more numbers to his small squad.
Cummins said: “The situation couldn’t be any worse and if the players still don’t want to go – after getting paid late and everything that has happened – then it shows you we’re on to something.
“Yes, we’re going to need more numbers because a squad of 25 players is not enough for the season. It’s a 27-round competition, there is the Challenge Cup and the Easter period is notoriously tough.
“Regardless of what happens with the club, I want to keep this squad together and we’re still going to need more numbers. That’s the nature of rugby league.
“Physically the lads are in great shape and we have worked on the possibility of reducing injuries. But the nature of the game is contact and you can’t prevent broken arms and thumbs.”
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