Hornets confirm old boy Abram as new coach

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Darren Abram, the man who took Leigh into Super League, has been appointed as the new coach of Rochdale Hornets.

Abram, a former Rochdale player, won promotion in 2004, but did not last until the end of a doomed campaign. Now, after three months out of the game, he is back in National League One in place of Bobbie Goulding, who resigned earlier this month.

"I have a squad of excellent players, many of whom I already know," he said. "Bobbie Goulding has done a tremendous job re-signing the players within the budget available and I'm looking forward to the 2006 season."

Rochdale's new chairman, Dave Vining, said: "I'm delighted with the quality of people that applied for the head coach's position and tremendously excited to have appointed Darren."

Abram will hold his first training session on Saturday. His first competitive match in charge will be against Oldham in the Northern Rail Cup on 12 February, while the NL1 season starts with a fixture at Doncaster on 9 April.

The National League fixtures, which will be published today, also show the new professional team in Wales, the Celtic Crusaders, playing their first game in the Northern Rail Cup against the amateurs of Hemel Hempstead.

Their opening match in NL2 is at Workington Town on 9 April. That day, the two sides relegated from Super League start life in NL1. Leigh are at Halifax, while Widnes are at home to York.

The New Zealand stand-off, Nigel Vagana, has been found to have broken his leg during the Kiwis' victory over Australia in the final of the Tri-Nations at Elland Road on Saturday. Vagana was helped off in the second half, but the extent of his injury has only now become apparent. He is expected to be fit for the start of the season with his Australian club, Cronulla, in March.

He was a controversial inclusion in the match after being suspended for only one match for the tackle that inflicted serious facial injuries on Great Britain's Paul Deacon.