Noble faces tough start

Crusaders coach admits to sleepless nights after club's frantic switch to Wrexham

Brian Noble has asked for Super League to show patience as he begins coaching Crusaders this weekend, literally with a blank sheet of paper.

The former Bradford, Wigan and Great Britain coach agreed to take on the fledgling club when it was the Celtic Crusaders, based in South Wales. He admits that a chaotic relocation to Wrexham has left him with sleepless nights, agonising over whether he has done the right thing.

Noble's problem in the short term is underlined by the Super league media guide, handed out at the official launch overlooking the Thames yesterday. Where other clubs list their squads, Crusaders have just a blank page and a daunting opening task against the champions, Leeds, on Friday night.

However, the enthusiasm of the new parent club at the Racecourse Ground has won Noble over and he hopes that the game as a whole will show the same commitment. "I just hope people will be patient with us," he aid. "The long-term objective remains the same – to provide a conduit for all the young rugby talent in Wales.

"We picked up a team whose reputation was in tatters. We've been at the back of the queue for players and our recruitment is far from complete.

"Leeds are the template we measure ourselves against. We are a very determined group and perseverance can take you a long way."

Crusaders had six players deported for visa irregularities last season and Noble will rely heavily on some senior players who survived that coup. He is poised to make Ryan O'Hara, ever-present last season, his captain. "It was a bit rough on those players, but we're loving it in North Wales now and we all have to pull together," he said.

There have also been calls for unity from another beleaguered club, Huddersfield Giants. Last season's achievement in reaching the Challenge Cup final and finishing third in Super League has been obscured by the events of last week, when six players were arrested on rape allegations.

"It's not something any organisation is looking for," said their coach, Nathan Brown, "but the best thing that we can do is concentrate on training and playing until the facts come out."

Two Super League coaches have distanced themselves from suggestions that they are in line for a role with England. John Kear of Wakefield said he has had no approach, while Salford's Shaun McRae said he knew nothing of rumours that he could come on board as Kear's assistant.

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