NEWPORT stalwart Gethin Robinson is relishing a new Gwent rugby challenge after penning a deal with Ebbw Vale, writes Chris Kirwan.

The 31-year-old prop has been a Rodney Parade mainstay since making his Black and Ambers debut against Cardiff in April 2003.

Robinson was a key member of the side that won the Premiership in the first season of the semi-professional era and went on to make 246 appearances over 12 seasons.

The tighthead, who also turned out 47 times for Newport Gwent Dragons, formed a formidable triumvirate with loosehead Dai Pattison and hooker Andrew Brown, all three of whom have enjoyed spells as club captain.

But Robinson's time at Rodney Parade has ended and life at Eugene Cross Park begins; a mix of sadness and excitement for the front row forward.

"Newport has been my club for all of my adult life," he said. "It was a big decision to leave and I had a lot of sleepless nights weighing the options up.

"It was tempting to stay with my mates and make it to 250 appearances but I am sure I have made the right choice.

"I felt that I needed a change after being at Newport for so long and Ebbw Vale is an exciting challenge and one that I hope will bring the best out of me and extend my playing days.

"I am well aware that I face a battle to get into the team because their front row (containing tighthead Robert Sevenoaks) has done so well but hopefully my Premiership experience will add to what is already a strong pack.

"I'm excited about what lies ahead, it will be odd when I go back to Rodney Parade but I can't wait. I am sure there will be a little wink with Dai before the game but then it will be a great battle in the scrum."

Head coach Jason Strange is delighted to have brought in a rival for Sevenoaks' number 3 jersey.

"We have already got a fantastic front row but we need competition for places in the Premiership and at least two players battling it out for every spot," said the former fly-half.

"And what pleased me about the conversation with Gethin was that he shares our ambition and desire to be successful."

Ebbw have also strengthened their back line with the signing of Owen Williams from champions Pontypridd.

The 29-year-old signed for the Sardis Road outfit from Blackwood in 2008 and was their player of the year in 2011, with his exploits earning him a place in the Wales Sevens squad that won the plate in the South Africa leg of the IRB series.

The Steelmen will announce more arrivals that boast Premiership experience in the coming days.