[icWales] COMBINED Pontypridd-Bridgend side could become a major force in European rugby.
That's the verdict of Ponty chief executive Gareth Thomas, in the wake of the two clubs merging.
As exclusively revealed in yesterday's Echo, Ponty and Bridgend have agreed to link up as part of the Premier clubs' five-team plan for Welsh rugby.
"I think it's a fantastic opportunity," said Thomas.
"I really believe that Ponty and Bridgend is a huge marketing and playing opportunity.
"If we can get it together, we can become one of the strongest sides not just in Wales, but in Europe."
The Premier clubs' proposal also involves Swansea-Neath and Newport-Ebbw Vale coming together, with Llanelli and Cardiff standing alone.
"I genuinely believe the five-team plan is the right way forward for Welsh rugby," said Thomas.
"It gives us a proper geographical spread and includes all the great rugby communities.
"It retains a base for rugby in the Valleys, which is vitally important.
"We have to keep Valleys rugby going.
"It's a question of trying to find a solution that is right for Wales and I've always believed that five teams is the right option.
"This is a deliverable solution and I believe the WRU general committee ought to support-it. "Any other imposed solution would be damaging."
Questions have been raised over whether there is sufficient money to fund five teams, with the Premier clubs saying they need £9m, but the Union having originally put £6.7m on the table.
However, Thomas believes this issue can be resolved.
"We all want more money," he said.
"But we have to live in the real world. The Union has financial problems and we need to work with them. The total pot is pretty well agreed.
"How we get the five teams and how we divide the money is the issue."
Bridgend backer Leighton Samuel had originally been against a merger with Ponty, preferring to join with Neath as part of a four-team regional plan.
But, with that avenue apparently closed to him through the WRU owning Neath, he has thrown his lot in with the men from Sardis Road.
Bridgend chairman Derrick King said: "Leighton always said he wanted four teams, but he sees we are not making progress with that and he realises the way forward is five sides and a merger with Ponty.
"The two clubs have indicated they are happy to go together."
Premier club officials held a three-hour meeting with WRU chief executive David Moffett yesterday and they were set to reconvene today.
"There are still a lot of issues that are being discussed," said Moffett.
"Finance is one of them, so is the number of teams. They are the sort of issues that have been around for some time."
If these matters can be resolved in time, then the five-team plan will be put to the WRU general committee on Thursday, along with the Union's own proposal for four regional franchises.
"It's a very tight deadline and that is concentrating everybody's minds," said Moffett.
"The facts are that we have one option on table. The clubs are working at getting another one.
"The Union would be more than happy to listen to another alternative."
Leighton Samuel believes Moffett would be likely to push forward the five-team proposal given the option.
"If he was going to go with the provincial plan he would have done so already," said the Bridgend owner. "He will have an alternative and that is the one he will put before the general committee."
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Ponty ar ben eu digon - pencampwyr dwbwl Cymru. Pwy oedd yn serennu yn y gem fawr yn erbyn Llanelli? Ponty on top of the world - double champions of Welsh rugby. Who starred in the big win over Llanelli?