CARL FORSTER will take his North Wales Crusaders team to one of his former sides when preparations for the 2024 League 1 season gather pace.

Barrow Raiders will welcome the Crusaders to the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium for a pre-season friendly early in the new year.

The friendly fixture will take place on Saturday, January 13, kicking-off at 3pm.

Forster previously helped the Raiders to promotion in 2021 and made 43 appearances across his two seasons in Cumbria before opting to leave the club to take up a player-coach role with his current side.

The two sides met in a friendly earlier this year, with the Raiders running in 10 tries to defeat Crusaders 52-24 in Nathan Mossop’s testimonial back in January.

Looking ahead to the forthcoming campaign and the structure for the 2024 season has been confirmed.

Following a meeting of Championship and League 1 clubs last month, the RFL Board has confirmed the structure for the 2024 season – including a new, expanded format for the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup.

The Championship will continue as a 14-team competition, with the top six teams qualifying for a play-off series culminating in a grand final to determine the champions.

This will be played at the home ground of the team ranked highest during the regular season.

Meanwhile, League 1 will be a nine-club competition next year, with each side playing 20 matches – 10 at home, and 10 away.

This will involve four loop fixtures for each team, to be determined by seedings based on 2023 finishing positions.

A contingency model has also been devised for an eight-team competition, which would see each team play the other three times in a 21-round programme.

West Wales Raiders resigned from the league ahead of the 2023 season, while London Skolars withdrew from the league at the conclusion of last season.

The League 1 grand final will be played on October 6 at the home ground of the team ranked highest during the regular season.

Importantly, clubs in both leagues have been invited to join a forum to consider the best structure below Super League for 2025 and beyond, the intention being to announce decisions before the start of the 2024 league competitions to provide clarity around promotion and relegation between any divisions.

Crusaders will also be taking part in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup next season.

A new structure has been devised for the cup, which was introduced in 2019 to provide a second and more realistic chance for clubs outside the Super League to reach Challenge Cup finals day at Wembley Stadium.

Next season, the 13 England-based Championship clubs will join eight League 1 clubs in seven groups of three.

Groups will be seeded and regionalised, with League 1 clubs awarded home advantage in any fixtures against Championship opposition.

The top team in each group will qualify for quarter-finals, joined by the best-performing second-placed team.

Further details will be provided when the full list of fixtures are published on December 3.