Llandovery will be one of six Premiership clubs to play in a cross-border competition against Scottish Super 6 sides at the end of the 2019-20 season writes Huw S Thomas.
The Drovers who finished fourth in last year’s Premiership will be joined by fellow top six finishers Merthyr, Cardiff, Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale and Aberavon.
The six semi-pro Scottish teams have been set up by the SRU with the aim of bridging the gap between the amateur and professional game in Scotland
Franchises have been awarded to Ayr, Stirling County, the famous Borders club Melrose and three Edinburgh clubs – Boroughmuir, Heriot’s and Watsonians.
“We are delighted that our place in the cross border competition has been confirmed” said Llandovery coach Euros Evans.
“ We see ourselves as one of the strongest teams in the premiership and being part of this competition confirms that. This will however stretch and challenge our squad but it’s something that we are all looking forward to immensely.”
“We will face what the Scottish Rugby Union has dubbed the Super Six and they are all famous clubs with a proud history of the game, which makes it even more exciting for players and spectators alike.”
The six Scottish clubs will play against each other between November 2019 and March 2020 before joining the six Welsh clubs in the cross border competition in April and May
The fixture list has yet to be finalised but it will mean that each Welsh club will have three home games and three in Scotland, all games played after the end of the Premiership season on. April 4.
All participating clubs will play six matches across two pools of six teams split between Scottish and Welsh sides and the cross-border winner will be decided on a league ranking based on number of points gained over the six matches.
The WRU have agreed to cover travel and accommodation expenses, and have asked clubs to identify any other overheads they anticipate arising from involvement in the competition.
WRU group chief executive Martyn Phillips was upbeat about the new tournament.
“We are thrilled that six of our Indigo Group Premiership teams will join Scottish Super 6 teams in a cross-border competition at the end of this season. It is an exciting development for our Premiership sides, while giving supporters something new to look forward to.”
Meanwhile the Premiership has found new sponsors in the Penarth based Indigo Group who specialise in data and payroll protection.
They take over from the Principality Building Society who have been backers of the league for 14 years.
There will be promotion and relegation for the Welsh Premiership for the first time since 2016 with one up, one down.
There will be automatic relegation for one Welsh Premiership club, providing the winner of the Championship meets the A Licence criteria.
This replaces the play-off system that last season saw Championship winners Pontypool fail to regain a place in the top division after being pipped 27-16 by Llanelli.
Bedwas, Cross Keys, Bargoed and Neath were relegated at the end of last season, resulting in this year’s Premiership being reduced to 12 teams as the Premiership was cut from 16 to 12 teams
Llandovery who finished fourth last year start off their campaign on September 7 with an away game at Carmarthen Quins, followed by a home game two weeks later against RGC 1404.
They will play Ystalyfera in the first round of the Welsh Specsavers Cup at Church Bank on September 14. Player wise, Llandovery’s main signing for the new season has been former Bedwas captain Alun Rees who is well known to the Llandovery coaching team as a highly respected opponent in past years. The hooker has had experience with Swansea, Cardiff and Bedwas whom he captained for two seasons and the former Dunvant Youth product will fight for the number two shirt with Ricky Guest.
“Alun will be an invaluable addition to the squad as the new 12 team Premiership will be a tough challenge. With four fewer teams I’m sure the quality of the league will increase and there will be no easy games.”
Otherwise, the squad will be pretty much the same as last year except for the departure of props Dean Howells and Dexter Thomas. Centre Carwyn Morris who last year played for the Wales U19s development team against Japan.joins from Ammanford and there is a welcome Church Bank return for another centre in Craig Woodall who has recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the whole of last year.
Indigo Group Premiership fixtures.
September 7 Carmarthen Quins v Llandovery
September 21 Llandovery v RGC
October 12 Ebbw Vale v Llandovery
October 19 Llandovery v Bridgend
October 26 Aberavon v Llandovery
November 2 Llandovery v Newport
November 16 Merthyr v Llandovery
November 23 Swansea v Llandovery
December 7 Llandovery v Pontypridd
December 14 Llanelli v Llandovery
December 21 Llandovery v Cardiff
December 28 Llandovery v Carmarthen
January 4 RGC v Llandovery
January 11 Llandovery v Ebbw Vale
January 18: Bridgend v Llandovery
January 25 Llandovery v Aberavon
February 15 Newport v Llandovery
February 29 Llandovery v Merthyr
March 7 Llandovery v Swansea
March 21 Pontypridd v Llandovery
March 28 Llandovery v Llanelli
April 4: Cardiff v Llandovery