The Foster’s Challenge Cup will involve the 12 Principality Premiership sides and will run during European and British & Irish Cup weeks, providing vital fixtures for the participating clubs and an opportunity for upcoming players to step up to semi-professional rugby and make a claim for starting places within the Premiership squads.
Some matches will take place midweek and some on weekends with three local derbies, Llandovery v Carmarthen Quins, Llanelli v Neath and Cross Keys v Ebbw Vale kicking off the competition next Wednesday evening (November 11).
While some Principality Premiership players will be called up to represent the Regional Premiership Select XVs in the British & Irish Cup.
The competition has been introduced following a wide-ranging review into competition structures across the game in Wales.
Chris Lloyd, multiple account manager for Heineken UK said, “We have links with Welsh rugby on many levels, including supplying seven of the 12 Foster’s Challenge Cup teams with Heineken product.
“We see this competition as a perfect opportunity to introduce younger players to a higher level of rugby. With players like Rhys Webb having come through the ranks at Bridgend, hopefully the Foster’s Challenge Cup will unearth the next Rhys Webb and other stars of the future.”
Ebbw Vale centre Adam Jones said:
“We’ve brought in some new boys from the lower leagues – this competition will give them the opportunity to put their hands up for a much sought-after semi-pro contract. It also gives other players the chance to be rested, while at the end of the day it’s always great to play for silverware.
“We’ve done well over the last five years. We haven’t had a great start to the season but we had a fantastic win at Pontypridd last weekend and hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”
Llandovery’s Matthew Jacobs added, “We’re looking forward to the tournament. It will be beneficial for the youngsters who haven’t had much game time as yet and we will have a chance to look at some young, local players with the future in mind. After winning the Foster’s 7s in August, it would be great to have the 15-a-side trophy in the cabinet too.”
The 12 Principality Premiership clubs will play each other home and away in three pools of four, with semi-finals and a final set for the spring.
Carmarthen, Llandovery, Llanelli, Neath
Aberavon, Bridgend, Cardiff, Pontypridd
Bedwas, Cross Keys, Ebbw Vale, Newport
Foster’s Challenge Cup Round One fixtures:
Wednesday 11 November
Llandovery v Carmarthen Quins (7.15pm)
Cross Keys v Ebbw Vale (7.30pm)
Llanelli v Neath (7.30pm)
Saturday 14 November (all 2.30):
Aberavon v Pontypridd
Bridgend v Cardiff
Newport v Bedwas