Thomas cross-code switch will boost League in Wales

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The Independent Online

Crusaders will today unveil Gareth Thomas as the signing they hope will transform the profile of rugby league in Wales. The former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain is 36 in July and the two-year contract he is thought to have agreed would take him almost to his 38th birthday.

He has never played rugby league, but the Wrexham-based club's coach, Brian Noble, is already on record as believing that he would be well capable of making the transition.

That transition might not come until May, as Thomas is under contract at Cardiff Blues until then. That would give him time to acclimatise to a different game, without being thrown cold into Super League.

Thomas is an iconic figure in Welsh rugby union, as the only player to win 100 Test caps. In December, he became the first international in the code to come out as gay.

His signing would be a major publicity coup for Crusaders, who have already attracted good crowds at Wrexham since an acrimonious relocation from Bridgend – Thomas's home-town – and have picked up two entirely unexpected victories in their first four games.

Thomas, who has played full-back, wing and centre in union, is likely to be used initially as a strike player coming off the bench, although with his size and diminishing pace there might be some urge to steer him towards the pack.

Castleford have suffered another severe injury blow with the loss of Brett Ferres for three months following shoulder surgery. The Tigers are already without Dean Widders and Richard Owen with long-term injuries.

Harlequins could give a Super League debut to another of the young Londoners they are developing, Olsi Krasniqi, at Leeds tonight. Kyle Bibb, on loan from Wakefield, is also in line for his first appearance for Quins.

Also tonight, Paul Deacon will make his first return to Odsal since his shock winter move from Bradford to Wigan. Deacon was a Bull for 12 seasons before signing for his home-town club, but says he will try to treat tonight's reunion as "any other match."

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