7:02am Friday 30th August 2013
NEITHER Cross Keys nor Newport can afford any rustiness when they kick off with a humdinger at Pandy Park tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm).
The Gwent rivals don’t have any second chances; they clash in a British and Irish Cup play-off with the losers missing out on the cross-border competition.
The winners will head to Bedwas a week on Saturday for the right to represent the Dragons region in a rejigged tournament.
All 12 Premiership clubs took part in the BIC last season and not all of them took it seriously.
But both Keys and the Black and Ambers have a proud history in the tournament and desperately want to enjoy some new adventures.
Keys, who have home advantage tomorrow after finishing fifth in the Premiership to Newport’s seventh, finished as runners-up in the 2011/12 tournament.
“The stakes are high and we have possibly the biggest game of the season first up,” said Keys head coach Greg Woods.
“I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t want to be in this tournament – it’s the chance to test yourself against professional sides in exciting games that are a step up from the Premiership.
“We played four pre-season friendlies to make sure we are in good shape for Newport because this is going to be a real battle.”
Newport are keen to set up a return to Dublin, the scene one of their finest victories in recent years.
The Black and Ambers, led by new Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs, beat Leinster 10-6 at Donnybrook in 2010.
Victory against Keys and Bedwas would see the Rodney Parade outfit enter Pool One with the Irish province, Ealing and Moseley.
“We’re pretty pleased with how pre-season has gone and we are straight into a massive game,” said head coach Sven Cronk.
“Both teams have done well in the tournament in the past and I am sure they want to be back in it as much as we do.
“It’s a Gwent derby so, as usual, it will be physical. The breakdown and getting quick ball is will be key.”
The clubs were paired together in last season’s tournament with Newport winning 24-20 at Pandy Park and the spoils shared after a 27-27 draw at Rodney Parade.
Newport are without club captain Lee Beach and fly-half Tom Hancock, who suffered knee and shoulder injuries respectively against Moseley a fortnight ago.
Keys will be captained by number eight Adam Powell because centre Leon Andrews is unavailable.
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