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'No Pressure' On Crusaders Says Forster

North Wales Crusaders head coach Carl Forster has said that there's 'no pressure' on his side as he looks ahead to facing Bradford Bulls in the Challenge Cup this weekend.

Crusaders have been handed a tough start to the 2024 season, being drawn against three Championship opponents between the 1895 and Challenge Cup, and head coach Carl Forster is looking to manage expectation within his squad: "Starts don't come much tougher than this.

"We've got a fairly young side with a lot of new faces who have all come in and are getting to know each other and our systems.

"I'll be honest that its far from ideal to start the season with four games against opponents from the league above, but we've got to just focus on giving a good account of ourselves, there's no pressure on us in these games.

"Anything can happen in a game of rugby, that's sport, and of course we go into every game wanting to win, but at the same time I have to look after my lads and we have to be realistic that we're not expected to be beating these teams, and so we seek out the positives.

"If you take the game against Swinton for example, I was really pleased with periods of that game and how we managed to compete with Championship opposition despite being a man down.

"It was far from perfect, and we've looked back on that game and realised that there's things which we can do better - my main takeaway is our last tackle options and that's something which I'm looking for a big improvement on this weekend against Bradford."

Having faced Barrow in pre-season followed by a cup tie with Swinton, Crusaders now face Bradford Bulls and Widnes Vikings in their next two cup fixtures before their league campaign gets underway against Cornwall several weeks later.

"The lads came into training this week and I think you could see that some heads were a bit down, they're looking at the start we've got and realising the scale of the challenge, but we had a good chat, and we know that our supporters realise that these first four games are a huge challenge for us and our real focus remains on our league campaign.

"As coaches we have our own challenges as well, you look at the format of the season and just as we get into the swing of things and match fitness picks up, after the Widnes game we face the possibility of waiting over a month for the next match to come around when the league gets underway, and that's not going to be easy.

"We've already spoken about the fact that we have to almost go back into a mini pre-season to keep those fitness levels up and ensure we're ready for Cornwall come the end of March."

Despite the difficult start, Forster has admitted that he and his side are looking forward to facing former Super League outfits Bradford and Widnes in their coming games: "Whilst we acknowledge the tough start, we do also have a real hunger and desire to go and show what we can do.

"We've shown last year that we love the underdog tag, and one benefit of the next two fixtures is that we go into them as complete underdogs, there's no pressure on us whatsoever and I've told the lads that we go out there and enjoy our rugby.

"It gives us a good opportunity to get our own systems right, we have to face what's in front of us, and if we can compete with Championship opponents, even for periods of these games, then that's going to put us in great shape for the league campaign.

"There's a lot of lads in this squad who are looking forward to the chance of playing at Odsal or facing former Widnes and you also have to remember that its in these games where the starting places for the league campaign are going to be up for grabs."

North Wales Crusaders travel to Odsal in the Betfred Challenge Cup on Sunday 11th February before returning to Colwyn Bay the following week where we will host Widnes Vikings in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup. Tickets for that fixture are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking HERE.



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