Welsh rugby fans can look forward to a bumper first ever round of British and Irish Cup rugby with all participating Principality Premiership clubs in action on Welsh soil next Friday.
The competition kicks-off with SWALEC Cup winners Neath taking on Bristol Rugby at The Gnoll, Newport hosting Exeter Chiefs at Rodney Parade and the four other Principality Premiership clubs clashing in two mouth-watering Welsh derbies, Pontypridd at home to Cardiff while Llanelli welcome Aberavon to Parc y Scarlets.
In Round two the following weekend, three Welsh teams again have home advantage, Newport hosting Plymouth Albion, Aberavon entertaining London Welsh in a plum tie at the Talbot Athletic Ground and Pontypridd taking on Doncaster Knights. Cardiff, Llanelli and Neath travel to Birmingham & Solihull, Bedford Blues and Nottingham respectively.
Rounds Three, Four and Five take place during the Six Nations period, the first of which takes place on the weekend of 13 February when Wales clubs play Scottish and Irish opposition for the first time, Newport hosting Scotland's new team, Gael Force, Neath travelling to Heriots FP and Llanelli hosting Ulster. Pontypridd and Cardiff meanwhile take on English opposition away from home, Pontypridd at Rotherham Titans and Cardiff at Birmingham & Solihull.
Neath take on Munster on the weekend of 27 February while Newport travel to Leinster. Llanelli host Moseley and Cardiff welcome Rotherham Titans to the Arms Park while Pontypridd and Aberavon travel to Ayr and Bedford Blues respectively.
The final round of Pool games takes place on the weekend of 6 March or midweek on March 10 / 11. In a final bid to secure semi-final places, Newport will travel to Penzance to take on Cornish Pirates, Neath host Coventry, Llanelli travel to Richmond to play London Welsh, Aberavon travel to Belfast to challenge Ulster, and Pool D's Pontypridd and Cardiff travel to Birmingham & Solihull and Ayr respectively.
WRU Head of Rugby, Performance and Development Joe Lydon said: "We knew we could expect some high-calibre encounters at the very earliest stages of the competition but it's an added boost for the Welsh clubs to be able to kick-off their British and Irish Cup campaign on Welsh soil.
"The British and Irish Cup is an opportunity for us to develop more players to achieve their full potential and enable them to compete at the very highest level.
"Welsh rugby fans have traditionally savoured the sporting edge delivered by cross border games and this cup will give our Premier Division a fantastic lift onto the next level of competition."
Chris Clarke, chair of the Welsh Premier Division clubs added: "It is a very exciting time for everyone involved in Premiership club rugby. We feel this is a very positive move by the Welsh Rugby Union to get involved in this project and by the clubs who have given it their full support.
"It is a level of competition that has been called for by some semi-professional clubs in Wales for some time, and its introduction will help bridge the gap towards professional, Regional rugby in Wales.
"We look forward to seeing this tournament kick-off and grow into something special."
new season prospects
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Gwerthiant tocynnau tymor ar i fyny, llu o noddwyr newydd, carfan gref... beth yw'r arolygon i Bontypridd am y tymor i ddod? Season ticket sales on the increase, new sponsors on board, a strong playing squad... what are the season's prospects for Pontypridd RFC?