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Rugby league: Big Welsh derby the highlight as North Wales Crusaders fixtures announced

NORTH Wales Crusaders will face South Wales Scorpions in the first professional Welsh rugby league derby for more than 101 years on Easter Monday next year.

Crusaders’ Championship One fixtures for the 2012 season were announced on Monday – and among them was the all-Wales clash against the Scorpions that will be televised live on satellite channel Premier Sports on Monday, April 9.

The last Welsh derby took place on December 27, 1910, when Merthyr Tydfil beat Ebbw Vale 2-0 in front of a crowd of more than 4,000 at College Field in Merthyr.

The Easter Monday encounter will take place at The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, with the kick-off time still to be announced.

It will be the Scorpions’ first ever live TV encounter as well as the first for the Crusaders under their new guise. The return match at The Gnoll in Neath will take place on Sunday, August 5.

Crusaders, who will have former Wales rugby union defence coach and RGC 1404 boss Clive Griffiths at the helm this season, will not take part in the Northern Rail Cup.

The former Super League outfit open their season at home to Barrow Raiders on Sunday, March 11 (2.30pm kick-off) in a match that could see Andy Bracek return to the Racecourse. The Wales international forward signed for the Raiders last month.

Crusaders’ chief executive Jamie Thomas said: “We’re thoroughly excited for the start of the season, which will of course be the first ever game for North Wales Crusaders.”

Brothers Owain and Iwan Brown are the first signings for the Crusaders.

The Chirk pair both began playing with Wrexham Raiders as seven-year-olds.

Owain, 27, continued his development with Widnes and St Helens before moving to Moss Vale Dragons in Wollongong near Sydney. On returning to the UK he has been playing for Leigh East.

Iwan, meanwhile, has had a successful spell playing for Halton Simms Cross near Widnes.