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Celtic Crusaders v Oldham Roughyeds preview
Celtic Crusaders have named a squad of 20 for their Co-operative National League Two match against former Super League side Oldham Roughyeds at the Brewery Field on Friday evening (kick-off 7.30pm).
The opening match of a weekend of rugby league in Wales sees the unbeaten Crusaders go into the unknown as they face the relegated Roughyeds who will be determined to go back up again at the first attempt.
This is the first National League Two match to ever be shown live on Sky Sports and celebrates 100 years of rugby league in Wales as Oldham were the first ever visitors to the principality to play a rugby league match, beating Merthyr Tydfil 25-6 in 1907.
However a more experienced side will face Oldham on this occasion as the Crusaders are flying high at the top of National League Two with four wins out of four scoring 254 points in the process. They also have the tightest defence after conceding just 34 points.
In contrast, Oldham have had a tepid start to the league season. With a game in hand on the Crusaders, they have scored just 84 points and conceded 63 in their two wins and one defeat.
The Crusaders go into Friday night's game with potentially just one change from the side that beat Swinton Lions 82-4 last Saturday.
Welsh international Gareth Dean has picked up a groin strain and will be out for the next four to six weeks. However Dean Fitzgerald, Paul Ballard and Phil Cushion are all fit again, so they, along with Geraint Davies, are the additions to the 20-man squad.
Oldham are likely to be unchanged from last week's 32-20 win over Keighley Cougars. They have just one injury set-back. Lee Wingfield tore his knee ligaments in Oldham's win over Swinton a few weeks ago and is now out for the season.
"Oldham's form in the last few games has been pretty good," said Crusaders' coach John Dixon. "They come to us virtually unknown so our preparations have been totally focussed on ourselves. Our own form has been very good so we'll go into this match with confidence and we'll go out there on Friday night and do the job in a methodical manner. I'm very confident that we'll play well."
Dixon knows that this weekend is an important one for rugby league in Wales.
"Having the Millennium Magic weekend in Cardiff is fantastic promotion for our sport," Dixon continues. "The Crusaders playing Oldham on Friday night as a link to that is tremendous promotion as well. This weekend will be a festival of rugby league at the highest level and it'll be terrific for everybody."
Celtic Crusaders v Oldham Co-operative National League Two Friday, 4 May Brewery Field Kick-off: 1930 BST TV - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 1900 BST Radio - Live on BBC Radio Manchester from 1800 BST
Crusaders (from): Tony Duggan, Richard Johnston, Anthony Blackwood, Mark Dalle Cort, Craig Richards, Damien Quinn, Jace Van Dijk, Josh Cale, Neil Budworth, Hywel Davies, Terry Martin, Darren Mapp, Rob Toshack, Luke Young, Jamie I'Anson, Chris Beasley, Dean Fitzgerald, Paul Ballard, Phil Cushion, Geraint Davies.