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Celtic Crusaders v Eastmoor preview
The road to the new Wembley Stadium starts this Saturday for Celtic Crusaders, and the Welsh side are determined not be the victims of a traditional giant killing when they host National Conference Premier side Eastmoor Dragons in the Third Round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup at the Brewery Field on Saturday (kick-off 6pm).
Eastmoor are one of many rugby league clubs in the north of England who play their sport in the winter months rather than in the summer.
They are currently in a play-off position in the Premier Division of the National Conference League, which is the top division of the pyramid of amateur rugby leagues run by the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA). While there is no automatic promotion and relegation from the National Conference Premier Division and National League Two, Eastmoor Dragons are technically just one division below the Crusaders so could prove a serious threat for the Welsh side on Saturday.
This match is the Crusaders' first on the long road to the new Wembley Stadium and while odds are stacked against them reaching the Final, the prospect of facing a Super League club this season certainly isn't out of the question.
Crusaders' Operations Manager Gerald McCarthy said: "If we win this match, there's a good chance that we will be drawn against a team like Wigan or St Helens in the next round. If this happens, we may even get an appearance on BBC Grandstand.
"But we've got Eastmoor to beat first and it's not going to be easy. A team from their league Thornhill Trojans, knocked out Workington Town last year, and Workington were in Super League not long ago. This isn't going to be an easy clash for us but it will be a thrilling contest for the fans."
John Dixon will name his full squad on Saturday but he has confirmed that he will give debuts to Wales under 19 internationals Tom Burnell from Cardiff Demons and Chris Vitalini from Newport Titans. Great Britain under 18 captain Lee Williams will make his first appearance for the Crusaders in almost a year following some excellent recent international performances.
Hywel Davies is the only new injury worry following last week's 28-4 win over London Skolars while last year's top UK try scorer Tony Duggan, who was named in the Northern Rail Cup team of the month for February, is back in the side after missing last week's trip to London.
A minute's silence will be held before the game for former Welsh international, Norman Harris, who died last week, aged 89. Harris played rugby union for Ebbw Vale, Pontypool and Newbridge before going north to play for Oldham in 1946. He was the grandfather of Wales dual-code international Iestyn Harris.
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