Crusaders unveil 11 new signings

National League 2 side Celtic Crusaders have announced 11 new additions to their squad ahead of their opening Northern Rail Cup Clash with Widnes.

The signings include Wales centre Anthony Blackwood and Australians Terry Martin and Darren Mapp, signed from Canberra Raiders and Cronulla Sharks respectively.

Others include two players with Super League experience in ex-Harlequins and London Broncos hooker Neil Budworth and winger Paul Ballard, who played for Widnes in their 2005 Super League campaign.

Winger Craig Richards has joined from Rugby Union side Llanelli RU. The rest of the acquisitions are Mark Dalle Cort (Centre, North Queensland Cowboys), Rob Toshack (Centre, Manly Sea-Eagles), Josh Cale (Prop, Canterbury Bulldogs), Jamie I'Anson (Prop, Leeds) and Andy Boothroyd (Hooker, Batley).

The Welsh club have also recruited Thibault Giroud as fitness coach, from Harlequins.

In an active week for the Crusaders, the club have announced a new shirt sponsorship deal with Redrow Homes.

While last season was a great success, already there is a sense of enthusiasm and anticipation for 2007," said Crusaders operations manager Gerald McCarthy.

"John Dixon [coach] has been very active this winter and has brought in some experienced, quality players that are very capable of leading us to promotion this year.

"Rugby league is really taking off here in Wales and I've a feeling that this, the centenary year for the sport in the principality, will be the best yet."

After missing out in the playoffs last season, Celtic will be one of the favourites for promotion from National League 2, which begins on April 6th.

Before that Celtic take part in the Northern Rail Cup, which begins on February 9th with a home clash with Widnes Vikings, which is followed by a high profile friendly with Brisbane Broncos on the 15th.

Full Squad: Celtic Crusaders squad: Terry Martin, Darren Mapp, Neil Budworth, Craig Richards, Anthony Blackwood, Mark Dalle Cort, Rob Toshack, Josh Cale, Paul Ballard, Andy Boothroyd, Jamie I'Anson, Chris Beasley, Phil Cushion, Geraint Davies, Hywel Davies, Gareth Dean, Tony Duggan, Grant Epton, Dean Fitzgerald, Richard Johnson, Lee Jones, Damien Quinn, Jace Van Dijk, Neale Wyatt, Luke Young.

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