Principality Premiership champions Ebbw Vale will begin the defence of their title away to Llanelli on September 3. The Steelmen, who beat Pontypridd 38-12 in the grand final to lift the Premiership trophy for the first time in their history, then travel to Sardis Road for the first league match on Pontypridd’s new 3G pitch on September 10, before welcoming Newport to Eugene Cross Park on September 17 followed by Bridgend on September 24.
The Principality Premiership has been revamped in time for this season with 16 teams playing each other in the first half of the season. In the New Year, the league will be split into two divisions of eight for the remainder of the season, the top teams playing it out for the title.
All the clubs in the expanded division will receive the same on and off-field support from the Welsh Rugby Union. As previously agreed and announced, the Premiership will be ring-fenced until the end of season 2018/19.
Ebbw Vale head coach Nigel Davies said, “It’s going to be a tough start, Parc y Scarlets and Sardis Road are always difficult places to go but we expect everyone to raise their game against us as champions this season anyway. We did well away from home last season, and we will just have to prepare well in pre-season and back ourselves to get off to a good start. After all, the first 15 rounds of the season is like a mini-season in itself and if you don’t get momentum early on, you’ll be on the back foot and find it difficult to stay in the top eight when the league splits.
“It’s always nice to go back to Llanelli, I have lots of friends there and I have huge regard for their development work. Like Ebbw Vale, they develop players and coaches for the professional game. As for Pontypridd, we beat them three times last season, and returning to the venue of the final will certainly be a big occasion, but we have to play these teams at some point so we just have to be ready. We will look forward to our first home matches against local rivals Newport and Bridgend.”
Davies is confident he has the right balance in his squad to launch a staunch defence of the title, with Damien Hudd still at the helm.
“The big strength of the team is its togetherness and we’re really pleased that the majority of the squad has stayed together. We’ve added some strength and are on the look-out for one or two more players but we’re happy with the balance of the side. Damien had such a great end to the season and winning Player of the Season, he’s been like a 19 year old around pre-season training. You need leaders at every level of the game and Damien has such fantastic leadership qualities.”
The fixtures are all here.