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Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 09:04 UK

Harris' challenge for young Wales

Harris named Wales coach

Iestyn Harris has challenged his young Wales squad to develop into national heroes in the 2013 World Cup.

Wales' new rugby league coach was hailed after helping Wales to back-to-back World Cup semi-finals in 1995 and 2000 during his playing career.

Harris said: "We were disappointed not to qualify for the 2008 World Cup but I'm excited by this young squad.

"At the 2013 World Cup we hope to be a force to be reckoned with and the young guys can become icons themselves."

Wales' 2013 World Cup hopes hinge on the success of the Celtic Crusaders' promising youth academy.

Keiron Cunningham starred alongside Harris in both of Wales' World Cup semi-final teams while Jonathan Davies, Scott Gibbs, Scott Quinnell, John Devereux and Allan Bateman were also part of Wales' golden generation in 1995 as they lost to England at Old Trafford.

Since rugby union went professional in 1995, the exodus to 'go north' has dried up and the Welsh national team that Harris once captained has suffered.

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The Celtic Crusaders' inception and subsequent three-year Super League franchise hopes to inject new life into Wales' struggling national team as the Crusaders hope to unearth and develop rugby league talent in the country.

Harris, who is set to retire from his distinguished playing career, insists the Crusaders' development policy will be Wales' World Cup lifeline as they seek to qualify for the next major tournament.

The Crusaders have suffered a troubled first season in Super League and Harris has hinted that he could combine his Wales role with being an assistant for the new coach of the club.

"The Crusaders had a very tough year," the 33-year-old told BBC Sport. "Winning just three Super League games as people expected them to win more.

"But the systems they have put in place are very good and they are probably more important for the sport in Wales than the results they've had on the field.

"The development of the Crusaders over the next two years is really important to the Welsh national team.

"And if we can get that development within the Crusaders, we'll see Welsh guys playing at the very top level with the Crusaders and they can also represent the Welsh rugby league national team.

"There will be some hurdles along the way, starting with the upcoming tournament, but there are lots of opportunities for young Welsh guys to show what they're made of.

Dixon backs Wales successor Harris

"It's not a daunting task as I'm more than capable of doing this job.

"Its exciting because of the raw talent in the squad and the youth coming through the Crusaders development program, I can hopefully create a strong, passionate and committed Welsh team.

"Wales' international program now has lots of opportunities for the players to showcase their talents.

"So when the 2013 World Cup comes around, the younger players would have developed and matured through the Crusaders' system, played regularly at international level and will be ready for the World Cup.

"It is important for Wales that they have developed in time for that competition and we can have a really good World Cup and Welsh rugby league can be back where it belongs."

Dual-code international Harris, who had also been assistant to Daryl Powell at Featherstone Rovers, has moved up from assistant Wales coach to take the top job and succeeds homeward bound Australian John Dixon.

Harris, in his first job as a head coach, has appointed experienced former Great Britain and Wales coach Clive Griffiths and Crusaders assistant coach Kevin Ellis in his backroom team.

Wales' players are due to report for camp on 12 October ahead of their 17 October showdown clash with England at Bridgend's Brewery Field.

Wales - who missed out on last year's Rugby League World Cup - will then face Serbia in the European Cup on the weekend of 24 October before hosting Ireland at Sardis Road in Pontypridd on 1 November.

Harris excited by Wales role

The tournament climaxes with three games in a day in Bridgend on Sunday, 8 November.

"It is important we get off to a good start and build some momentum," said Harris.

The last time Harris worked in Wales he was hailed as the saviour of Welsh rugby union following his big money high-profile code switch from league to union, when he joined Cardiff from Leeds Rhinos for £2m.

The former Great Britain stand-off is arguably the biggest name Welsh rugby league coach and Harris knows that both he and his team in transition will be under the microscope more than his predecessor.

But Harris wants his Welsh rugby league revolution to be kept in perspective.

"If teams are passionate and honest, generally the Welsh public will get behind you," he said.

"My experiences playing in Wales and my career as a whole has developed me off the pitch.

"There is always expectation in Wales. If you're doing well then everyone is fully behind you and everyone wants to congratulate you but it's tough if you're not doing well and I'll have to impose that on my squad."



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see also
Super League Show
17 Feb 08 |  Rugby League
Harris takes over as Wales coach
22 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Harris set to become Wales coach
17 Sep 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Harris hints at Crusaders switch
16 Sep 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Davies backs Noble for Crusaders
15 Sep 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Dixon to leave Celtic Crusaders
12 Sep 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Noble link 'good for Crusaders'
11 Sep 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Harris excited by Welsh Crusaders
04 Feb 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Crusaders & Salford win licences
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Welsh rugby league's Crusade
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Harris retires from Britain duty
10 May 06 |  Rugby League
Harris confirms code switch
17 Jun 04 |  My Club
Cardiff complete Harris capture
10 Aug 01 |  Welsh-Scottish Rugby


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