CRAIG Warlow has known Greg Woods long enough to be well aware that a much-improved Ebbw Vale side will line up against his Newport charges at Rodney Parade on Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm).

Woods is set to make a belated debut as the Steelmen’s head coach this weekend after their National Cup clash with Bridgend last Saturday was rained off.

Warlow and Woods went head-to-head on numerous occasions when the latter coached Cross Keys, the club he left in early January after 15 years in charge.

Lee Davies stepped down as Ebbw chief in December, since when the Steelmen’s form has picked up significantly with defeats of Bedwas, Llanelli and RGC 1404.

One of Davies’ last matches in charge was against Warlow’s Newport and ended in a 42-12 win for the Black and Ambers on home soil.

Newport also won up at Eugene Cross Park in mid-September, Matt O’Brien winning the game with a last-ditch penalty.

But one round of fixtures into the second part of the Principality Premiership season and, judging by their results following Davies’ departure, Ebbw seem to have turned the corner.

While Ebbw go into Sunday’s encounter on the back of some impressive victories, Newport are in good form as well.

Having seen off Cardiff in the league the day before New Year’s Eve, they then edged past Swansea in the cup and had too much for Aberavon in the same competition last Sunday.

“We had a fair idea of what Aberavon were going to bring and they brought exactly that,” explained Warlow.

“We prepared really well and I was very pleased with how the boys played.

“Aberavon are a top side and for us to put them away like we did was nice.

“From a momentum point of view, it’s quite frustrating when you get these prolonged periods of no rugby.

“We had a couple of good wins before the break and it was pleasing to come back and play well.”

When asked about Woods’ move away from Pandy Park, he added: “Greg is a great coach and you can see why Ebbw Vale went after him, and he will have taken all those values from Cross Keys to Eugene Cross Park.

“Their last two games have shown Greg has got quality to work with, though it wasn’t evident before that.

“We went up there earlier in the season and won.

“It was quite comfortable going into the last quarter but they scored two tries to take the lead.

“That was a little bit gut-wrenching for us but Matt O’Brien kicked a penalty at the death to win us the match.

“We then put them away quite comfortably towards the end of Lee Davies’ run.

“They’ll be much tougher to beat this time, Greg will make sure of that, so we know we’ve got to be on our game.”

Fly-half Matt O’Brien could be available for Newport on Sunday but Haydn Simons will be hoping to keep hold of the 10 jersey after going well against Aberavon.

Meanwhile, Warlow reckons skipper Rhys Jenkins might be back in six to eight weeks following ankle surgery, and he is confident James Little will return in a fortnight.