9:00am Thursday 1st August 2013
By Chris Kirwan
IT’S been a summer of change for Newbridge but there is optimism about what lies ahead in the coming Championship season.
The revolving door has been busy at the Welfare Ground with plenty of exits and a raft of arrivals.
’Bridge have lost some key figures, Neil Burnett and lock Gareth Short have gone to Bargoed while hooker Darren Hughes and full-back Ceri Young headed for the Premiership with Cross Keys and Neath respectively.
The management team of coaches Andrew Gibbs and Jon Hawker and new team manager Darren Venn has beavered away to build a strong squad.
The backs have been bolstered by fly-half James Reid (Beddau), scrum-half Luke Crane (Dragons academy), wing Rhys Williams (Newport HSOB) and centre Aaron Pinches after the ex-Cardiff centre returned from a spell in Australia.
Flanker Carl Townsend brings plenty of Premiership experience from Newport and joining him up front are hookers Matthew Howells (Bridgend) and Andrew Gallivan (NHSOB), prop Mike Kavanagh (NHSOB), lock Kris Chorley, flanker Leon Burgess (Cross Keys), number eight Matthew Llewellyn (Bridgend) and back row forwards Ethan Doyle and Patrick James from Newport Saracens.
Name badges must have been needed at early training sessions but Gibbs is pleased with the work put in.
“We’ve had a rebuilding job and there has been a high turnover of players but things are looking positive,” he said.
“Training has been hard in terms of physicality and fitness and now we are starting up with a bit more rugby structure.
“We are looking to develop with youth and from the lower divisions and we have built good relationships with clubs around us.
“The boys have settled in and now we’ve got to prepare them for what’s ahead.”
’Bridge had a solid fifth-placed finish in the inaugural Championship.
“It wasn’t too bad a season but we had a frustrating end and were incredibly inconsistent,” said Gibbs.
“To go from beating Bargoed, who finished second, to losing to Whitland, who finished bottom, just about summed it up, “But the Championship was a step up from Division One and we are mentally prepared for it now. We’ve tried to strengthen our squad and training has been tougher, so we have no excuses.”
Newbridge prepare for the big kick-off at Bargoed on Septem-ber 7 with friendlies against Old Luctonians on August 17 and Abertillery on August 31 with a spare date in between.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group