Friday, 20 November 2009

Thomas leads Neath into unknown

Neath kick off their campaign in the new British & Irish Cup with an attractive home game on Friday evening against old adversaries Bristol who currently lie second in the English Championship. (KO 7.30pm).

Neath have not seen action since their 28-26 win over Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets on October 31st so are eager to get back into action.

A Neath spokesman said, “We are delighted to be taking our place in this exciting new competition. For many years, Welsh rugby fans have complained about the lack of cross-border Anglo-Welsh challenges. Now is the time for them to vote with their feet and back this new competition. We are maintaining our policy of allowing Under-12’s in free and it should be a good family occasion.”

Former Wales outside-half Arwel Thomas captains the Welsh All Blacks who make one change from the side originally named for last week’s game at Pontypridd which was postponed due to the waterlogged pitch at Sardis Road with Wayne Mitchell replacing the injured Nathan Brew and Alec Jenkins coming onto the replacements’ bench.

Neath Head Coach Patrick Horgan, said: “We have a very tough challenge ahead of us in Bristol. But it is a challenge we relish – the opportunity to take on a fully-professional, all-star English club at The Gnoll is not to be missed and I hope that our supporters are up for the challenge too.

“There can be no under-estimating just how big an opportunity this competition will be for Neath and all the other Welsh clubs. But it is a tournament that we have lobbied hard for as it will test our players in a new environment against different players and different styles of play.

“Bristol are a very accomplished outfit indeed and are looking to bounce back into the Premiership after their relegation last year. They have some well-known names like Jason Spice, Ross Johnston, Darren Crompton and Nathan Budgett who have played in Wales and who will be familiar with our style.

“They will be missing lock Mariano Sambucetti who is playing for Argentina against Wales but they have a big, mobile pack and some top runners behind although we gather they may have suffered a couple of injuries against Nottingham last Sunday so maybe there is something to exploit there.

“We’ll need to be at our best but I am confident we can rise to the challenge especially if the supporters get behind us like they can at The Gnoll.

“Unfortunately, our prop Anthony Lott who has been a revelation this season is injured and will miss the game so there is a timely return to fitness for Nicky Downs. Luke Ford, Nathan Brew David Evans and John Bowd are also out of contention but we had a good session at The Gnoll which was perfect on Wednesday and we are really looking forward to what will be a big game in every sense.”

Neath: G.King; K.James, S.Thomas, W.Mitchell, K.Morgan; A.Thomas (captain), K.Farrell; N.Downs, G.Price, M.Jones; P.Sidoli, N.Edwards; E.Evans, L.Evans, G.Gravell
Replacements: – A.Jenkins, G.McCarthy, T.James, A.Littlehales, J.Reeves, H.Pugh, C.Price

Referee: – Mr. Dudley Phillips (Ireland)


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