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Iestyn Harris replaces Brian Noble as Crusaders coach

Iestyn Harris
Harris has been in charge of Wales' league side since September 2009

Iestyn Harris has been confirmed as new head coach at Crusaders just a day after Brian Noble stood down from the troubled Welsh Super League franchise.

Harris was Noble's assistant last term when, in the space of one season, Crusaders went from being Super League's bottom club to the play-offs.

But Harris has now been promoted, with Noble having been offered a behind-the-scenes role in Harris's backroom team.

"It will be a big challenge but it's one I'm going to enjoy," said Harris.

But the North Wales club face a troubled few weeks before pre-season training starts as Crusaders face a winding-up order in the High Court in London on Wednesday from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over unpaid tax.

The club also faces legal action from the Rugby League Players Association over claims of missing pension payments to players.

Brian Noble
Brian Noble was a success as Crusaders coach

But the appointment of Harris, who started his coaching career at Featherstone Rovers in 2009 before joining Noble at Crusaders last winter, now has responsibility for on-field affairs in his first top job.

"I wouldn't have taken the role if I did not believe this club was going places," said Harris.

"The things done over the last 12 months with Brian in charge have been really good. We have to keep that progression going.

"I'll be looking to improve the side for the 2011 Super League season so we can build on our play-off position.

"This is a club with huge potential. The players showed last year what they're capable of and we have some fantastic young talent.

"The club's ambitions are to be a top four side in Super League. It will be hard work to achieve this and there's still a lot that needs to be done. It will be a big challenge but it's one that I'm going to enjoy."

Harris helped Noble oversee the club's rise to eighth place in the Super League last season following their tumultuous move from Bridgend to Wrexham.

And former Great Britain captain and coach Noble, who guided Bradford to five consecutive Grand Finals before moving to Wigan in 2006, may still use his wealth of experience and coaching knowledge to help Harris.

"I am delighted for Iestyn Harris who will be taking over the reins as head coach," said Noble. "And I wish him and the Crusaders every success.

"My heart is there and, if I'm back doing nothing, I'll go round and look after them if I can. I wish them the best for sure.

"I know they inherited a difficult situation and I know that behind the scenes it got more difficult through no fault of their own.

"They've done brilliantly well to fend off all they have so far and they should be given all the help to get through. I'm confident they will go round again next year."

Iestyn's heart is with rugby league in Wales, he is 100% focussed on the present and future of the game here at Crusaders and Wales as a whole and he is a consummate professional

Crusaders chairman Ian Roberts

Harris's rugby league career began at Warrington in 1994 before moving in 1997 for £350,000 to Headingley, where he became the first Leeds captain to lift silverware in 10 years - the Challenge Cup.

In the same year, he broke the club record for goals in a season (168).

He then switched to rugby union, joining Cardiff for £2m, where he spent the next three years, winning 25 caps for Wales.

But Harris returned to rugby league in 2004, joining Bradford, where he helped Noble's side win the 2006 Grand Final and World Club Challenge.

Two years later, he retired from international rugby with Great Britain after making 15 appearances, but continued to play for Wales where he won 19 caps.

And, since turning to coaching, the former dual code international has also transformed the fortunes of the Wales national team to win successive European Cups and qualify for the Four Nations.

"We feel Iestyn has done an outstanding job at the Crusaders so far, especially his involvement in the development of young Welsh players," said Crusaders chairman Ian Roberts.

"Iestyn's heart is with rugby league in Wales, he is 100% focussed on the present and future of the game here at Crusaders and Wales as a whole and he is a consummate professional.

"We are certain he is going to continue the good work that Brian Noble has started here and we can't wait for 2011. Iestyn has shown both with Crusaders and Wales what a talented coach he is."

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see also
Crusaders struck by redundancies
22 Nov 10 |  Crusaders
Noble could remain at Crusaders
12 Sep 10 |  Crusaders
Noble unveiled as Crusaders coach
14 Oct 09 |  Crusaders
Harris takes over as Wales coach
22 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Super League Show
17 Feb 08 |  Rugby League

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