Cup draw and fixture changes

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Ebbw Vale will make a welcome return to Beddau RFC in Round 2 of the National Cup, on February 18th. This was always one of the best away fixtures when we were in Division One East and the Championship, with a warm welcome off the field and hard games on it.

The draw in full is:

Narberth RFC v Carmarthen RFC
Pontypridd RFC v Newport RFC
Bedwas RFC v Merthyr RFC
Bridgend RFC v RGC 1404
Cardiff RFC v Pontypool RFC
Cross Keys RFC v Neath RFC
Beddau RFC v Ebbw Vale RFC
Llandovery RFC v Bargoed RFC

Three Premiership games scheduled for Saturdays have now been moved to Friday nights to avoid clashing with Wales’ Six Nations fixtures. The changes are as follows:

Ebbw Vale v Aberavon now Friday, February 10th, 7:30pm
Carmarthen v Ebbw Vale now Friday, February 24th, 7:15pm
Ebbw Vale v Pontypridd now Friday, March 17th, 7:15pm

The second half of the season coincides with the January 31st transfer deadline leading to a hectic few days for club officials!

The club has signed the following players:

The Lewis twins return to the club after 10 years playing professional rugby mainly at London Welsh. Scrum Half Rob and Centre / Wing James, victims of the sad circumstances at London Welsh, are back at the club where they started their senior career and continue the long history the Lewis family has with the Steelmen, their late grandfather being a star performer at outside half, father Steve a record points holder at scrum half and cousin Iestyn a highly talented centre, all gracing Eugene Cross Park over the last 5 decades. Welcome back to two highly talented individuals who have always expressed a desire to return to the club!

The return of the twins sees 2 sets of twins in the squad and it will be interesting when they are on the field the same time as the Franchi twins. This is highly unusual and it would be interesting to know if another club has 2 sets of twins in the squad.

23 year old second row Lance Randall joins the club after being out injured for a long period with a knee injury. He is a product of the Dragons Academy where he played alongside several of the current Steelmen Squad. Lance is a Welsh U18 international and has played senior rugby at Newport and several seasons at Cinderford. He has worked hard over the last 8 weeks with the clubs medical team to return to action and has impressed coaches in training and all believe he will add to the already strong Steelmen pack

The club are also delighted to see centre Dom Franchi return to the playing squad after a long period out with a knee ligament injury sustained at Pontyprid on World Cup Final day in 2015. Dom had established himself as a favourite of the Ebbw Addicts with his strong ball carting and destructive tackling. Dom has worked diligently on his rehabilitation at all times and deserves to enjoy the warm welcome he will receive when he takes the field

Centre Adam Jones has suffered a setback as he battles a groin strain and will be reassessed by medical staff in the next few weeks

Further updates on squad and injuries will follow next week.

We are all sorry to learn that one of our legendary players of the 1950s and 1960s, the great Albert ‘Albie’ Jackson (of Blaina), has died. Albert was a key figure in two Championship sides and Roy Lewis, who saw him play many times, recalls the final game of the 1951-52 season, at home to Neath when, in front of 10000 speactators, Jackson chased a cross kick, which he caught to score under the posts. Great skill for a threequarter – but Albie was a hooker! No wonder Roy describes him as the ‘Chunky’ of his day.

The funeral will take place on Monday 6th February at 12 noon at the Wesleyan Chapel, Nantyglo, followed by cremation at Croesyceiliog.

The club will hold a minute’s silence before Saturday’s National Cup tie with Skewen RFC.

Naturally, our condolences go out to Albie’s loved ones.

The WRU have released the Premiership fixtures for the second section of the season, and Ebbw’s programme looks like this:

February 4th Bedwas (h)
February 11th Aberavon (h)
February 25th Carmarthen (a)
March 18th Pontypridd (h)
April 8th RGC (a)
April 29th Llandovery (a)
May 6th Merthyr (h)

The matches against Aberavon, Carmarthen and Pontypridd clash with Wales 6 Nations games, so will have earlier kick off times, or be played on other dates, subject to agreement between clubs and the WRU.

The family of long-time Steelmen supporter, Howard Thomas, have asked us to include the following information regarding his funeral:

“The funeral for Howard Thomas will be on Tuesday 24th January, with an 11:45am service at Christchurch, Ebbw Vale (conducted by club chaplain Rev Geoff Waggett) followed by cremation at Llwydcoed crematorium, Aberdare.”

If you’re wondering exactly what happens next, our club secretary Ian James has put together this message, which tells you as much as we know.

“The WRU’s Premiership team starts working on fixtures today, January 9th.  The WRU and Premiership clubs will then meet on Monday 16th January when we’d hope to agree the format and publish the fixtures soon afterwards.
The prime criterion is to try and ensure that all clubs get the same home/away balance over the whole season i.e. 11 home, 11 away. This will mean that teams who have had 7 home and 8 away fixtures in the first section of the season (as we have) will have 4 home and 3 away fixtures in the second section.
Of the 7 other teams in the Top 8 Ebbw have played 5 away, but will only have 4 home games to “get the balance right”. This means a second away trip to one team we’ve already visited. RGC again, anyone?
Over the longer term the ‘home or away’ basis of the first section (rounds that finished yesterday) will be reversed on a two year cycle, so all the teams we played at home in the first half this year, we’ll play away next year.
Please note, this is all subject to change or tomy misinterpretation!
I’d be grateful for any constructive thoughts or comments, so please contact me if you have any:

Everyone associated with Ebbw Vale RFC is devastated to learn of the death of long time supporter Howard Thomas, in the early hours of Sunday morning. We send our heartfelt condolences to all those who hold him dear.

This is the Steelmen squad to take on Cross Keys at Eugene Cross Park tomorrow (Saturday January 7th):

Dan Haymond, Nathan Preece, Gareth Maule, Dai Langdon, Craig Duncan; Josh Lewis, Dai Jones; Ross Jones, Joe Franchi, Gethin Robinson; Jaonathan Davies, Damien Hudd (capt); Rhys Clarke, Ronny Kynes, Harrison Keddie.

Subs: Jonny Bowen, Ian George, Rob Sevenoaks, Max Williams, Dawid Rubasniak, Chris Thomas, Ryan Gardner, Srdan Majkic.

With the Premiership about to be cloven in twain, a win for Ebbw will mean a ‘top eight’ place. Any other result will mean that the final split will depend on the outcome of Cardiff’s match at home to Bedwas. If Cardiff lose, Ebbw will be in the top half regardless.

To add to the excitement, S4C will be covering the game live on TV and streamed via their facebook page. Look out for a link from our twitter account tomorrow afternoon.