Crusaders seek relief from troubles

Welsh club is in crisis but coach believes his struggling team will battle through

At the end of a stressful week, the visit of the club directly above them in the Super League basement almost counts as light relief for the Celtic Crusaders.

With their owner's company in financial trouble, the start of a clear-out of players, an investigation into visa irregularities and talk of relocating to Newport, it has been an unsettling few days, to say the least.

Their coach, John Dixon, is adamant that they will battle through the adversity, but it would be reassuring if they could make a start at that against Salford today.

One of the players on his way out, Damien Quinn, is back in the squad today, along with Matty Smith and Adam Peek, so at least the Crusaders look rather more convincing on the field.

Salford might be only one place above the Welsh club, but they arrive in the Principality in a very different mood, thanks to last weekend's shock victory over the leaders, St Helens.

That win was achieved without the England scrum-half, Richie Myler, who could be sufficiently recovered from a foot injury to play in this one. Jordan Turner is also added to the squad and another of Salford's bright young men, Luke Adamson, plays for the first time since agreeing to a new three-year contract.

Saints, meanwhile, face a Warrington side hungry for a rare Super League win over their neighbours. The Wolves' coach, Tony Smith, has already revealed that Brian Carney will make his first-team debut, while St Helens will be without two of their major influences in Keiron Cunningham and Sean Long. On the brighter side, Leon Pryce returns to try to get Saints back on course.

Third-placed Huddersfield go to Harlequins with Martin Aspinwall, Paul Whatuira, Kevin Brown and Simon Finnigan – all of whom missed last week's win over Wakefield – back in the Giants' squad.

Quins bring Ryan Esders, the forward borrowed from Hull KR last week, straight into their squad. In the continued absence of Rob Purdham, Danny Orr captains the side at the end of a week when he agreed a one-year contract extension.

The highlight of tomorrow's programme is not a Super League match, but Barrow versus Widnes in the final of the Northern Rail Cup at Blackpool. The extra incentive for both clubs is that the winners will be qualified to apply for Super League membership when the licensing procedure takes place again in two years' time.

Widnes, who surprised Halifax in the semi-finals, are the marginal favourites, thanks to their improved form, due in part to loan players like Kevin Penny and Craig Hall.

Barrow will be without the suspended Ned Catic and are sweating on the fitness of their long-serving orchestrator, Darren Holt.


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