Celtic Warriors have wasted not time in looking to re-strengthen their squad by agreeing in principle a deal with All Black wing Caleb Ralph.
The Canterbury Crusader has confirmed that he will join the Warriors on a two-year deal this August providing that he is not selected by Graham Henry and Steve Hansen to tour with the All Blacks this autumn.
Ralph, 26, is seen as a natural successor to Dafydd James, who had his transfer request accepted by coach Lynn Howells earlier in the year, though his arrival will also go some way to compensating for the loss of Gareth Thomas if he does move to Toulouse.
The Warriors had originally ruled out a move for Ralph because of his excessive wage demands, having also made tentative enquires with Australia star Joe Roff, but yesterday reached an agreement with the Super 12 flyer over his salary.
"After some negotiations, Caleb has confirmed that he will join us later in the year, though that obviously depends on whether or not he is selected for the All Blacks tour," said a Warriors spokesman.
"We made no secret that we were looking to strengthen in the wing/full-back area but this will be a huge signing for us, if he comes, as he is an international class player."
Ralph, who scored eight international tries, won the last four of his 14 All Black caps at the World Cup having made his Test debut back in 1998 when aged just 20.
A former New Zealand schools, Colts and Sevens international, he has never played a senior Test against Wales though was part of the New Zealand A team that beat a Wales XV 30-9 at the Millennium Stadium in 2000.
Meanwhile there was more good news for the Warriors with tight-head prop Chris Horsman, who qualifies for Wales on residency grounds next May, singing a two-year extension to his current contract that will him with the Warriors until 2007.
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Ebbw Vale captain Damien Hudd picked up the biggest accolade of the night at the 11th Principality Premiership Awards Evening held at Principality Stadium, after leading his side to the title for the first time.
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde is predicting a tough battle against England on Sunday despite the fact they may not be considered to be at full strength. Players will be out to impress Eddie Jones which makes England a dangerous proposition, he says.
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