The Neath pack made huge strides last season and the good news for Gnoll supporters is that all will be back for the 2017/18 season.
In the front-row, loose-head props Ben Uphill and Neil White will continue to provide the scrummaging fulcrum alongside tight heads Geraint James and Ryan Thomas and keep an eye out too for young Callum Jones who has already shown his versatility in appearing on both sides of the scrum.
The Welsh All Blacks are spoilt for choice at hooker where the experienced Sion Crocker, Aled Morris and rising star Ifan Phillips are as strong and lively a crop as any in the Premiership.
In the second row the hard-working Rhys Jones and lofty Jon Barley settled down to form an effective partnership. Their play compliments each other nicely but fellow lock Jonny Griffiths suffered a knee injury in the final game against Newport which will sideline him awhile. Opportunity knocks therefore for young Matthew Davies who showed promise last season and is training hard.
Neath ended the season with a settled back-row combination of skipper Jordan Collier, the ever-consistent Leon Ward and the emerging Charlie Davies who settled into the No.7 shirt after injuries to Alun Jones and Calum Davies.
Neath are hoping that Academy flanker Josh Cole will be fit after a season out through injury as he too has massive potential and it is also hoped that No.8 Scott Hicks recovers from his knee injury while Neath are taking a close look in pre-season training at some interesting additions who have expressed a desire to join the club.
Team Manager Martyn Morris said, “We made a lot of progress last season not least up front. Gareth Llewellyn is a very constructive coach – he puts a lot of emphasis on positive, straight scrummaging and, as you’d expect from a man who won 96 caps as a second row for Wales, our line-out generally functioned well.
“We have a powerful set-piece which we will continue to develop and we are looking to build too on our increasingly effective assertiveness around the park. The team is growing in experience and I believe we will be more than competitive. Our doors are never closed to emerging talent and we are looking to improve again.”
Utility back Geraint Llewellyn who made 6 starts and 4 appearances as a replacement for Neath last season has signed his first contract with the Welsh All Blacks.
Geraint made his debut in the 28-23 Foster’s Cup win at Cardiff in December. He followed up with a 16 point haul at Bridgend and then crossed for further tries in the League win at Cardiff, at home to Cross Keys and then against Newport in the play-off final.
His more than useful goal-kicking brought him 36 points in all. Most of his rugby last year came on the wing but he favours full back and made his Premiership bow with Cardiff at outside-half where he made 16 appearances.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We are pleased to have Geraint on board properly. His versatility gives us plenty of options behind the scrum and Gnoll supporters have already witnessed the high skill levels he brings.”
Back row forward Jordan Collier will captain Neath again in the 2017/18 season.
The 22 year old led Neath last season after being vice-captain the previous year and he is relishing the opportunity and responsibility of leading Neath for a second year on the next step of the road to recovery.
Jordan is one of Neath’s youngest captains and he said, “I am thrilled to bits and very honoured to be captaining my home town Club again.
“Whenever I see all those famous names on the Captains’ Board – top players and internationals – it really hits home to me. I just try to live up to their deeds and do the Club justice and that’s what I want from the team.
“When I first came to Neath as a youth player, the senior players had a wonderful, winning attitude and taught me a lot.
“We are obviously all focussed on improving again on last year. A lot of people were impressed by the strides we made and by the positive style of rugby we played.
“We have again recruited some strong players. There is a big local emphasis in the squad and already everybody’s looking keen and eager in training.
“It will be tough and it will take a big effort from everyone but we have the backing of tremendous supporters who know what we are trying to do and where we are trying to get to.”
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn (himself a Welsh All Blacks captain for some seven seasons) said, “Jordan has already shown himself to be an excellent leader. He is a rapidly developing captain in a rapidly developing team.
“He never misses a training session and sets a tremendous personal example to those around him on and off the field.
“His own game came on well last year and I can see him now charging away for that try in the win against Aberavon at The Gnoll.
“Our pack began to get to grips with the Division last season and, under Jordan’s leadership, we are looking to improve again.
“Jordan has always been central to our plans – he is a Neath man through and through, his family are from Neath and very supportive of him and he will be at the heart of our collective effort to keep the Club heading back on track.”
Season tickets can now be purchased online via the website – See “Season Ticket” items on the navigation menu.
Information on Standard Season Ticket, All Black Patron and Vice Presidents options is now available.
Application forms are available at The Clubhouse.
ALL BLACK PATRON MEMBERSHIP
VICE PRESIDENTS MEMBERSHIP
Neath’s Principality Premiership fixtures for 2017/18 have been released.
After last year’s dislocations, the League format has been revised. There will be an East-West home and away split prior to Christmas before the Division re-unites for 15 games against all clubs, either home or away, in a reverse of last year’s ties.
Meritocracy points (8 for 1st, 7 for 2nd through to 1 for 8th) will be carried forward from the first phase into the second and in total there will be 29 games in all – up from last year’s 22 – and the Foster’s Cup has been discontinued.
The list should not be taken as finite because there is a lot of work to be done yet – particularly around the internationals and where clubs ground-share with regions.
One new innovation is the “doubling up” of fixtures at Easter with all clubs playing two games over the spectator-friendly holiday on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Again there will be no League fixtures on British & Irish Cup Saturdays but it is hoped to arrange non-League games during these periods – so don’t go booking holidays yet !
League fixtures kick off on the August Bank Holiday weekend with Neath entertaining Swansea (exact time to be confirmed as there is cricket adjacent on the Saturday afternoon) and the full list is available via this link:
The WRU Board has confirmed changes to the Principality Premiership for the next two seasons in order to meet the changing needs of the clubs.
In the first half of the season, the 16-team semi-professional league will be split geographically into two east and west eight-team leagues, with the clubs playing each other home and away. The clubs will be split into east and west Wales leagues with RGC 1404 joining the west Wales league. This will guarantee more meaningful local derbies up to the New Year before all teams come together for the second half of the season.
Each club will then play the other 15 teams either home or away. At the split, points will be allocated to clubs based on league positions so the winners of the east and west leagues will go into the second half of the season with eight points, the clubs in second place will carry seven points into the 16-team league down to the eighth placed clubs who will carry one point, this will ensure all clubs remain in the race to be crowned Premier Division winners.
Every club will have a guaranteed 29 league matches during the season. Principality Premiership clubs will continue to work with the Regions to select Regional Premiership Select XVs for the British & Irish Cup, while the Foster’s Challenge Cup will not take place.
Following an extensive consultation process with the Principality Premiership clubs, the changes have been made in order to help support the clubs from a rugby, financial and supporters’ experience perspective and to fit into the national and regional pathway programme. There will be no play-offs, with the table-topping club at the end of the season crowned Principality Premiership champion in a straight-forward league system.
WRU Head of Rugby Operations Julie Paterson said, “We have taken on board the views expressed by the Principality Premiership clubs, particularly in respect of the number and regularity of fixtures required to enable the clubs to be sustainable. A number of surveys, workshops and meetings have been held with all club stakeholders – administrators, supporters, coaches and players, looking at different areas of the club game at this level.
“We hope the east and west Wales leagues will build on the history and heritage of the Principality Premiership clubs while maximising the pride and ability to attract community support that comes from traditional local derbies. The geographical split will also help reduce travel costs for clubs and supporters.
WRU Head of Rugby Performance Geraint John said, “The Principality Premiership is a vital competition in underpinning the professional game in Wales, providing a crucial stepping stone for our potential future professional players in addition to the British & Irish and Anglo-Welsh Cup competitions.
“We believe the new format and in particular, the additional, guaranteed local derbies in the first half of the season will further support the work of the Regions to establish the place of the Principality Premiership within the regional and national pathway in order to underpin player, coach and referee development, and at this time we feel this solution meets the vast majority of those needs.
“We will continue to assess the outcomes of this new format but there will be no further structural changes to the Principality Premiership until at least the 2019/20 season.”
Chris Clarke, Principality Premiership clubs chairman said, “The format of the league has been amended this coming season in line with the suggestions of supporters and clubs and we look forward to another challenging and competitive Season.”
Broadcast partners S4C and BBC will continue their live and highlights coverage of the Principality Premiership, S4C committing to 15 live Principality Premiership and WRU National Cup, Plate and Bowl matches.
Neath have unveiled their pre-season fixture schedule.
The Welsh All Blacks will kick off on Saturday, August 5th with a visit to near-neighbours Skewen (2.30pm) who are preparing for their second season in the Championship.
Then on Friday, August 11th Moseley will visit The Gnoll with a 7.45pm kick off timed to allow the English National One side to travel down from the Midlands.
The following weekend, Neath repeat last year’s trip west to play Narberth (kick off 2.30pm).
The full list of warm-ups is :-
Sat. August 5 Skewen Away
Fri. 11 Moseley Home
Sat. 19 Narberth Away
The funeral of Cyril Roberts will take place on Thursday next, June 29th at 10.00 am. at St. David’s Church, Neath – refreshments will be served at Neath RFC afterwards.
All at Neath Rugby will be saddened to hear of the passing of former Welsh All Blacks winger Cyril Roberts who lived in the town.
Cyril (born in Neath in 1930) was Neath’s regular right-wing during the 1950’s, appearing over 200 times after making his debut in 1953/54 when he scored seven tries. The following year he scored 20 and he notched a personal best 21 in 1956/57 then 18 in 1958/59 to become one of the most prolific scorers of his era.
By the time he played his last game for Neath in 1960, Cyril had scored 91 tries in the All Black shirt and he also played for Bryncoch, Neath Athletic and Briton Ferry. Cyril played too for the combined Neath-Aberavon side which lost narrowly 3-5 against Australia on Saturday, December 28th, 1957.
Metal Box worker Cyril was capped twice for Wales in 1958. He won his first cap and scored on his debut in the 9-6 win over Ireland in Dublin when he replaced his great mate John Collins (Aberavon). He subsequently held his place for the 6-16 home loss to France.
People who saw Cyril play in the then No.2 shirt for Neath recall that he was an excellent finisher, often diving in at head height to touch down in the corner. And, with the flying Keith Maddocks usually on the opposite flank, Neath had an especially potent pair of international wingers.
The Roberts family have a long and distinguished connection with rugby in Neath. Cyril’s father John won a Welsh Schoolboys cap but lost a leg fighting in France with the Royal Naval division in the First World War.
Cyril’s nephew, also John, played for Neath, played for Wales in the first-ever ‘B’ international against France and ran the line for Neath twice last season at the grand young age of 75.
The Neath club’s sympathies go out to all his family and friends. MP
Neath RFC is trying to establish contact with any relatives of former club secretary ARTHUR GRIFFITHS who served in that office until his death in 1971.
It is believed that Arthur’s son lived in Surrey but if anybody knows the whereabouts of any relatives, please get in touch via email@example.com
No.8 Scott Hicks who made a big impression for Neath on permit from Maesteg last season has signed on at The Gnoll for next season.
After playing a leading role in the wins at Cardiff and Llanelli, Scott unluckily suffered a knee injury which ended his season but Neath have shown faith in his ability to bounce back and continue his progression over a full season.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Scott did well for us albeit over a brief spell last season and added something to our game. Once his recovery is complete and he gets up to full fitness, we feel we can develop his game still further and he will augment an already strong pool of back-rowers at The Gnoll.”
NEATH season tickets will go on sale at the end of the month and, according to media reports, there will be a better Premiership product on offer for supporters.
Following widespread discontent with last season’s arrangement, the Principality Premiership is set for a review which will entail pre-Christmas east and west conferences next season.
The governing body presented club representatives with several alternatives and the majority opted for an initial split based on geography with RGC 1404, based in Colwyn Bay, going in with the seven western clubs for the first phase.
RGC will join Aberavon, Bridgend, Carmarthen Quins, Llandovery, Llanelli, NEATH and Swansea who will play each other home AND away before the two conferences unite after 14 fixtures.
“Meritocracy” points will then be carried over into phase two when all 16 clubs will play each other once home OR away in a reverse of this season’s fixtures.
That will give 29 games played in total before the champions are crowned – and there will be no play-offs to decide the title.
If adopted by the WRU Board, this means Neath will host the 7 “western conference” sides and, in a straight reversal of 2016/17, Aberavon, Bargoed, Bridgend, Cross Keys, Llandovery, Merthyr and Pontypridd in the united Division.
That is 14 home League fixtures in all as opposed to the season just gone when Neath played 12 home League games and 3 Foster’s Cup games.