Welsh clubs confirmed for 2013/14 British & Irish Cup
Cross Keys, Pontypridd, Llanelli and Aberavon will represent Wales in the British & Irish Cup this season.
After two weekends of play-off matches to determine who will reach the pool stages, the four sides secured their places with wins last Saturday.
The British & Irish Cup kicks off in the second weekend of October with the quarter-finalists decided by mid-January. The quarter-finals and semi-finals will take place in April with the winner being crowned on the third weekend in May.
For this year's competition, Pontypridd will represent the Blues region after a thrilling 22-19 play-off win over Cardiff at Sardis Road. The current Principality Premiership champions were 13-0 down at one stage as Ceiron Thomas kicked the Blue and Blacks into a comfortable lead. It forced Pontypridd to dig deep, Wayne O'Connor and captain Chris Dicomidis adding scores to an earlier try from full back and Wales Sevens skipper Adam Thomas.
The victory means Pontypridd feature in Pool 2 this year alongside London Welsh, London Scottish and Edinburgh Academicals. Dale McIntosh's side will start their fixtures with a trip to Raeburn Place to take on the Academicals before home clashes with London Welsh and London Scottish.
In Pool 1, Cross Keys will take on Leinster A, Moseley and competition newcomers Ealing Trailfinders after their convincing play-off win over Bedwas at the Bridge Field. Greg Woods' men produced a superb performance to run out 45-13 winners and seal their place in the competition proper. Their cup campaign begins with a home clash with Moseley at Pandy Park while Leinster A and the Trailfinders will also provide stern opposition.
"We played Moseley two years ago and did well against them,” said Woods.
"But they're full time now so it will be a huge challenge. Similarly, Ealing are full time too but they are more of an unknown quantity.
"For Cross Keys to be playing these sides is great for the club, that's why we fought so hard to get into the competition. Playing Leinster at Pandy Park will be unbelievable. To play them at any level is fantastic and it's great for the club. We're really looking forward to it.”
Last season saw Llanelli reach the British & Irish Cup quarter-finals and they get another chance to impress this year. Anthony Buchanan's side got the better of Llandovery at Church Bank, winning 26-20 last weekend and now face a rematch with Bedford Blues – the side that knocked them out of last season's competition. English side Rotherham Titans and Connacht will be the other opposition.
In Pool 5, Aberavon will face Bristol, Leeds and Gala as the Wizards look to make a significant impact on the competition. Simon King's side managed a 35-26 win over Ospreylian rivals Swansea on Saturday to reach the pool stages.
British & Irish Cup Pools
British & Irish Cup Fixtures:
Round 1 (Weekend of October 11/12/13)
Pool 1: Leinster A v Ealing Trailfinders, Cross Keys v Moseley
Pool 2: London Welsh v London Scottish, Edinburgh Academicals v Pontypridd
Pool 3: Rotherham Titans v Bedford, Llanelli v Connacht
Pool 4: Plymouth v Nottingham, Munster A v Stirling County
Pool 5: Bristol Rugby v Leeds Carnegie, Gala v Aberavon
Pool 6: Cornish Pirates v Ulster Ravens, Jersey v Ayr
Round 2 (Weekend of October 18/19/20)
Pool 1: Ealing Trailfinders v Cross Keys, Moseley v Leinster A
Pool 2: London Scottish v Edinburgh Academicals, Pontypridd v London Welsh
Pool 3: Bedford Blues v Llanelli, Connacht v Rotherham Titans
Pool 4: Nottingham Rugby v Munster A, Stirling County v Plymouth Albion
Pool 5: Leeds Carnegie v Gala, Aberavon v Bristol Rugby
Pool 6: Ulster Ravens v Jersey, Ayr vs Cornish Pirates
Round 3 (Weekend of December 6/7/8)
Pool 1: Moseley v Ealing Trailfinders, Leinster A v Cross Keys
Pool 2: Pontypridd v London Scottish, London Welsh v Edinburgh Academicals
Pool 3: Connacht v Bedford Blues, Rotherham Titans v Llanelli
Pool 4: Stirling County v Nottingham Rugby, Plymouth Albion v Munster A
Pool 5: Aberavon v Leeds Carnegie, Bristol Rugby v Gala
Pool 6: Ayr v Ulster Ravens, Cornish Pirates v Jersey
Round 4 (Weekend of December 13/14/15)
Pool 1: Ealing Trailfinders v Moseley, Cross Keys v Leinster A
Pool 2: London Scottish v Pontypridd, Edinburgh Academicals v London Welsh
Pool 3: Bedford Blues v Connacht, Llanelli v Rotherham Titans
Pool 4: Nottingham Rugby v Stirling County, Munster A v Plymouth Albion
Pool 5: Leeds Carnegie v Aberavon, Gala v Bristol Rugby
Pool 6: Ulster Ravens v Ayr, Jersey v Cornish Pirates
Pool 5 (Weekend of January 10/11/12)
Pool 1: Leinster A v Moseley, Cross Keys v Ealing Trailfinders
Pool 2: London Welsh v Pontypridd, Edinburgh Academicals v London Scottish
Pool 3: Rotherham Titans v Connacht, Llanelli v Bedford Blues
Pool 4: Plymouth Albion v Stirling County, Munster A v Nottingham Rugby
Pool 5: Bristol Rugby v Aberavon, Gala v Leeds Carnegie
Pool 6: Cornish Pirates v Ayr, Jersey v Ulster Ravens
Round 6 (Weekend of January 17/18/19)
Pool 1: Ealing Trailfinders v Leinster A, Moseley v Cross Keys
Pool 2: London Scottish v London Welsh, Pontypridd v Edinburgh Academicals
Pool 3: Bedford Blues v Rotherham Titans, Connacht v Llanelli
Pool 4: Nottingham Rugby v Plymouth, Stirling County v Munster A
Pool 5: Leeds Carnegie v Bristol Rugby, Aberavon v Gala
Pool 6: Ulster Ravens v Cornish Pirates, Ayr v Jersey RFC
Quarter-finals: Weekend of April 4/5/6
Semi-finals: Weekend of April 25/26/27
Final: Weekend of May 23/24/25