Rugby Union: Welsh sides ready for British and Irish Cup
The British and Irish Cup kicks-off this weekend with all 12 Welsh sides from the Principality Premiership taking part for the first time.
With the cross-border competition expanded to 32 teams for the 2012/13 season, the tournament is the biggest it has ever been.
Now in its fourth season, the British and Irish Cup sees the winners of each of the eight pools progress to the knock-out stages.
Cross Keys flew the flag for Wales in last year’s competition, reaching the final before falling to a 31-12 defeat to Munster A at Musgrave Park, Cork. And Greg Woods’ side take part in one of the standout fixtures on the opening weekend.
Last year’s beaten finalists travel north to take on Dean Richards’ Newcastle who are top of the English Championship and unbeaten in the league so far this season. And although they face a tough test, Keys’ Gary Horrigan believes his side are capable of getting a result in the Pool Four fixture.
“We’ve got a bit of a challenge going to Newcastle with the squad they’ve got but we’ll go up there to try and cause an upset,” he said.
“When you go to places like Newcastle, we’re still the underdog and we like that tag. I believe their squad has cost £4 million. We’ll give them the respect they deserve but at the end of the day they bleed the same as us and we’re going up there to get the win.”
In the other fixture in the pool, Newport take on Connacht A.
Elsewhere,one of the oldest rivalries in club rugby will be revived on Saturday when Cardiff entertain Bristol at The Arms Park.
Cardiff hold the upper hand in the head-to-head standings but Bristol’s last visit to The Arms Park was a successful one, with the West Country side winning 38-12.
“It’s a big challenge and we all know the history of the Bristol and Cardiff derby so we’re looking to get back on track with a big performance against Bristol at the Arms Park,” said Cardiff hooker Aaron Fowler.
“Luckily Bristol are on TV quite regularly and we’ve had a look at them. They’re a big bunch of boys and we’ve worked hard in training this week so hopefully we can catch them cold.
“We want to be successful in everything we do so hopefully we’ll get out of the group stages and make a better showing of ourselves later on.”
While Cardiff and Bristol clash at the Arms Park, Bridgend travel to Ulster in the other Pool One fixture.
Two well supported teams meet at St Peter when unbeaten Pontypridd take on Jersey in Pool Five while Premiership table-toppers Llandovery welcome Nottingham to Church Bank before further tests against Melrose and Doncaster in Pool Eight.
Bedwas and Neath clash in Pool Two although they will have to wait to take each other on. The Welsh All Blacks make the long trip to Stirling on the opening weekend while Bedwas take on Bedford.
In Pool Three, Carmarthen Quins go into their clash with Cornish Pirates on the back of two successive league wins while Swansea will hope home advantage will help them to a win over Dundee.
In Pool Six, Llanelli take on Moseley at Billesley Common. The sides have met a number of times since the first game between the two in the 1891-92 season with the Welsh side boasting a record of 21 wins to Moseley’s 11 with three draws.
Aberavon face a difficult ask after being drawn in the same group as defending champions Munster A. They welcome Rotherham to the Talbot Athletic Ground on Saturday.