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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Season preview: Celtic Warriors
By Sean Davies

The merger of last season's Welsh Premier champions and Parker Pen Cup semi-finalists has produced what is potentially the strongest of the Welsh regions.

WARRIORS PREDICTIONS
Celtic Warriors
Celtic League: 4th
Celtic Cup: Losing finalists
Heineken Cup: Quarter-finals
Bridgend and Pontypridd have few natural affinities, though, and will prove difficult clubs to integrate.

Harnessing the traditionally fervent Sardis Road support for Ponty will prove crucial to the success of the region.

In contrast, Bridgend's fan base has been notoriously sparse, although last season's title win may have provided a boost.

The Warriors are likely to lose a high proportion of key players to Wales' World Cup campaign, but the squad has the depth to cover.

When the internationals are all back in harness, the very strength of the side could, ironically, prove a weakness.

Aisea Havili
One to watch: Aisea Havili
Keeping every member of their talented threequarter line in action and content would seem to be a major challenge.

It could also prove an indictment of the Welsh provincial set-up, with other regions screaming out for talented backs.

Even in their first season together, the Warriors squad has enough quality to see them to fourth in the Celtic League and a runners-up spot in the Celtic Cup.

In Europe, they have been drawn in group six with last season's Heineken Cup finalists Perpignan and Parker Pen Cup winners Wasps.

With England's and France's internationals set for a more protracted and demanding World Cup than Wales' stars, the Warriors chances against these heavyweight clubs should not be discounted.

Wasps must be favourites for the group, but with Calvisano also in the mix a best runners-up spot could beckon for the Warriors, enough to see them through to an away quarter-final.


Full-backs: Gareth Wyatt, Kevin Morgan
Three-quarters: Aisea Havili, Gareth Thomas, Dafydd James, Sonny Parker, Jon Bryant, David Bishop (development contract), Matthew Nutthall (development contract)
Fly-halves: Ceri Sweeney, Neil Jenkins
Scrum-halves: Paul John, Sililo Martens, Gareth Cooper (from Bath)
Props: Gethin Jenkins, Phil Booth, Martin Jones, Chris Horsman, Geraint Morris (development contract)
Hookers: Mefin Davies, Andrew Joy, Matthew Rees
Locks: Robert Sidoli, Brent Cockbain, Deiniol Jones, Ryan Jones
Back rows: Nick Kelly, Richard Parks, Maama Molitika, Nathan Budgett, Richard Bryan, Cory Harris, Mark Lewis (development contract)

Supplementary list to provide cover during World Cup includes:
Richard Fussell, Emyr Lewis, Lee Thomas, Shaun James, Tommy Walsh, Gerald Cox, Duane Goodfield, Ian Evans, Jonathan Edwards

Transfer stories
Captain: Gareth Thomas
Coach: Lynn Howells
Assistant coach: Allan Lewis
Team colours: Blue, black, white and red
Premier League team coaches: Steele Lewis and Justin Burnell (Pontypridd), Richard Webster (Bridgend)
Chief Executive: Leighton Samuel
Director of rugby development: Clive Jones
Conditioning coach: Nick Johnston
Physiotherapist: Tim Atter
Marketing and media: John Samuel
Commercial executive: Emma Rogers
Team administrator: Christine Banfield
Academy coach: Justin Burnell
Acadmey conditioning coach: Steve Richards
Grounds: Brewery Field and Sardis Road




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SEE ALSO
Heineken Cup 2003/4
26 Nov 02  |  European Club
Welsh rugby's new dawn
31 Aug 03  |  Welsh


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