Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Swalec Championship Preview

The Swalec Championship kicks off on Saturday with a host of intriguing fixtures lined up for the opening weekend, the stand-out match arguably being defending champions Ebbw Vale travelling to North Wales region RGC 1404.

The Steelmen, who ran away with the title last season in only losing one match all year in the league, will be a good tester for Chris Horsman’s Parc Eiras based troops.

All sides will be gunning for the top spot this season with the potential carrot of a place in the Principality Premiership at stake for the champions, provided the team that wins makes the grade for the WRU’s ‘A’Licence.

Ebbw Vale Head Coach Jason Strange is looking forward to the season ahead, starting with the trip to North Wales.

“It’s good for the league and for Wales to have a North Wales side in the mix - obviously, the facilities and stadium they have up there are top class and our boys will be relishing the opportunity to play on a good, hard, fast surface.”

“We’ve won three successive league titles and last year couldn’t really have gone any better for us, but we know we must keep moving forward and improving on and off the pitch”, added the former fly-half.

The Steelmen have named Damien Hudd as captain for the season and have managed to retain the majority of players that starred for them last season, despite the loss of talented young fly half Josh Lewis, who was a summer acquisition for Llanelli.

“We lost a couple of players in the summer but the calibre and attitude of players that we have brought in has been first rate. We have added some very talented players to the group who are all from the local area and have the ambition to play at the top level”, commented Strange.

“We know it’s going to be a tough season and just as we have been pushing on, other clubs will also have been improving, though we don’t concentrate on anyone but ourselves as a club. We have the mentality at the club to just prepare the best possible way to do the right things and not worry too much about what other clubs are doing.

“Obviously, the big carrot at the end of the season is possibility of promotion to the Premiership which in the last few seasons has been out of our hands, but we are going to do everything possible as a club to get there. The club have made improvements to the ground and facilities so hopefully when the opportunity arises we are able to grab it with both hands.”

Bargoed, who were Ebbw’s closest rivals last season, have added fly half Neil Burnett and second row forward Gareth Short - both from Newbridge - to their ranks as they once again look to launch an assault on the crown, with the two new boys locking horns with their former club on the opening weekend.

Bargoed’s forwards coach Jeremy Rogers is relishing the challenge of the new season.

"We have had a really good pre-season with tough matches against Bedwas whom we beat, Newport and Cardiff. The boys have trained really well and we believe that we are prepared for the challenge,"said Rogers.

He added "We could not have had a much more difficult start with Newbridge and Ebbw Vale our first two opponents."

Rogers believes that Vale,Newbridge,Tata Steel,Cardiff Met University and themselves should be the frontrunners in the Championship.

Meanwhile, Tata Steel are another side looking to build on a strong finish to last year’s campaign and they have impressed many in pre-season, especially by claiming a Premiership scalp in Aberavon. The Margam based outfit have added Bill Carey and Ross Pritchard, both from Llanharan, to what was an already formidable pack and they will entertain newly promoted Tondu on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Beddau announced the return of former fans' favourite Brett Davey as their head coach in the summer, replacing Robert Downes in the hot seat. Davey will be bringing ex Wales Under 21 captain Duane Goodfield with him as his assistant to Mount Pleasant Park.

In the past few seasons, Goodfield has been learning his coaching trade at Pontyclun, where he led the Badgers to promotion in his first season before narrowly missing out this year on back to back promotion, losing out in the Third Division Play-Off. The Green and Golds will kick off their campaign against Pontypool.

The rest of the opening day fixtures see Narberth away at Bonymaen, Bridgend Athletic entertaining Blackwood and Cardiff Met visiting Llanharan 


Post a Comment