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Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Quins cancel Crusaders friendly

Celtic Crusaders

Celtic Crusaders will go into their opening Super League match at Leeds with no match practice after Thursday's friendly at Harlequins was postponed.

The Stoop hosted two games in pouring rain in the space of 24 hours last weekend and Quins' sister rugby union club are keen to protect the surface.

"We're really disappointed," said assistant coach Anthony Seibold.

"It was our one and only pre-season friendly. This isn't ideal preparation for us by any means."

Harlequins rugby union side entertained the Scarlets on Saturday, then the league side played Halifax in a friendly on Sunday.

With heavy rain and Saturday's union match against Northampton looming, the friendly against the Crusaders had to make way.

An alternative venue could not be confirmed at such late notice, so the Crusaders will hold a practice game between the first team and the reserves at the Brewery Field in Bridgend that night.

Seibold was trying to remain upbeat following the setback, saying: "We've overcome other issues in the past and we have always taken the positives out of any situation.

"We are now setting our sights fully on the Leeds Rhinos match where we are looking forward to being welcomed into Super League by the world club champions.

"We understand the implications of having two sides play at the one venue as we also have a ground-share arrangement with Bridgend Ravens here in Wales.

"Also due to the short notice, we have been informed that no other ground was available for hire but I'm sure that the annual friendly we have with the Quins will be resumed next year."

However, the Bridgend-based club would have been without a third of their squad for the friendly at Harlequins.

Captain Jace van Dijk, leading try-scorer Tony Duggan and player-of-the-year Damien Quinn are among eight players in Australia awaiting visas.

The Crusaders are confident the red tape will be sorted out soon.

"I've got no control over it whatsoever," coach John Dixon told BBC Sport Wales last week. It is one of those things. We are governed by UK policy and Australian policy."

Tightening of regulations by the British consulate in Canberra have caused the problems for the Bridgend club, who appear to be the worst-affected of the Super League sides.

Dixon said he had not given up hope of getting his overseas stars back in time but was preparing to play without them.

"It's not a matter of if, it's just a matter of when that happens," he told BBC Wales. "We just have to be patient.

606: DEBATE

"We are confident these players will be back in time to play, but they are not here yet and we have to plan without them.

"It's not ideal, but we are making preparations right now to go without them because that's what we have to do."

He added: "We will turn up and play on 6 February. We're utilising what we've got.

"We've got 17 guys working exceptionally hard and we have plans to throw some of our kids into the squad.

"If we had to play tomorrow, that's the team we've got. Anything on top of that is a bonus.

"You could have eight players missing through injury during the season. You've just got to deal with it."

The other players affected are Darren Mapp, Mark Dalle-Court, Josh Hannay and two of the club's nine new signings, props Ryan O'Hara and Jason Chan.

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see also
Visa delay hits Crusaders plans
26 Jan 09 |  Celtic Crusaders
Harlequins chairman Hogg resigns
05 Jan 09 |  Harlequins
Crusaders complete Chan signing
12 Jan 09 |  Celtic Crusaders


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