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Gateshead set for NL3 debut.

Byline: By Jeff Bowron

Gateshead Storm and Carlisle Centurions both kick off their first National League Three campaigns with home games this afternoon.

Storm host St Albans Centurions at their Novos base at High Heaton while Carlisle take on Birmingham Bulldogs at Southend Road.

Both fledgling clubs have reached the pinnacle of summer amateur rugby league in double quick time having both been part of the regionalised Summer Conference last season.

Carlisle won all 10 of their North-West group games and reached the Grand Final at Warrington only to go down by seven points against Bridgend Blue Bulls.

Gateshead Storm finished mid-table in the North-East group and were only elevated into National League Three within the last two weeks following the demise of Teesside Steelers.

"We're asking the guys to step up from where they expected to play," said Storm Team manager and former Gateshead Thunder chairman Steve Worsnop.

"We're a predominantly young squad and while it'll be tough it's a chance to test ourselves week in week out and we're relishing the challenge."

Storm's coach and scrum half is 25-year-old Yorkshireman Rob Jones who lines up alongside Neil Emmerson against St Albans.

Chris Naylor deputises for injured centre Lars Madson while hooker Liam Wood, one of a host of teenagers in the squad, faces a fitness test.

Carlisle, meanwhile, have former Gateshead Thunder second row James Mackay on duty for their NL3 bow against Birmingham Bulldogs in Cumbria.

The Centurions, however, have been hit by the loss of the Stalker brothers, Martin and Craig, to NL2 neighbours Workington Town while Birmingham are without last year's top scorer Eral Anderson.

Today also sees the launch of the Summer Conference season which involves 67 clubs across the country including seven in the North-East.

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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 1, 2004
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