Crusaders summon youth to fill visa gap

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The Independent Online

Troubled Celtic Crusaders will make a virtue of necessity tonight at the end of the most traumatic week in the club's short history. Crusaders were told this week that six of their Australian imports were in the country on the wrong visas and would be deported next month. The club faces an investigation by the Rugby League, which is also facing awkward questions about how much they knew.

The six, three of whom appeared in the defeat at Wakefield last week, are debarred from playing, forcing the club to fast-track some of their Welsh youngsters against Leeds this evening. Elliot Kear, Gil Dudson and Ashley Bateman are in line for their debuts after being named in an 18-man squad, along with Lloyd White and Lewis Mills, who played at Belle Vue last weekend. Their coach, John Dixon, admits that circumstances have forced the promotion of some of these young prospects before they are truly ready for Super League.

They can expect little mercy at Newport's Rodney Parade – next season's home ground following a two-year ground-share deal confirmed yesterday – from a Leeds team to whom points difference is very much a live issue. They were level on points with St Helens going into this weekend's round of games and just 15 worse off in their scoring record. The extent of the punishment they dish out to Celtics today could determine whether they finish first or second at the end of the regular season.

The Rhinos have taken a strong squad to Wales, including the competition's leading try-scorer, Ryan Hall, who scored five against Castleford last Friday. Cas have to try to recover their composure after that 76-12 thrashing by playing Wigan tomorrow night.

Wigan are in fifth place, but not entirely secure in the play-offs, while the Tigers are more precariously placed in eighth. They field a full-strength side, including the returning Brent Sherwin and Rangi Chase, who has agreed a new, four-year deal.Bradford's lingering chances could be extinguished tomorrow, if they fail to beat the Catalan Dragons, who can strengthen their own claim at Odsal and have Thomas Bosc back to boost them.

Barrow can go back to the top of the Co-operative Championship if they can win at Featherstone, while Gateshead need to beat Leigh if they are to have a realistic chance of avoiding relegation.