TWENTY-TWO of the country’s top clubs will get the WRU National Cup up and running this weekend in the hope of going all the way to the final in Cardiff later this season.

For Newport, they don’t need to wait that long to play in the Welsh capital, with their home tie against 2017 winners RGC 1404 taking place at the Arms Park tomorrow (kick-off 6.30pm).

The Black and Ambers will want to go one better than last term when they reached the final, only to suffer a Principality Stadium mauling by Merthyr.

Their round one fixture this time is on Cardiff’s artificial playing surface due to Newport County’s FA Cup tie with Leicester City at Rodney Parade being switched to Sunday for television.

Newport head coach Craig Warlow isn’t going to use the neutral venue as an excuse should his side not progress – they won on Merthyr’s 4G pitch not so long ago.

“It’s against opponents we know reasonably well and on a surface we’re comfortable with,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about anything other than the game, and it’s an opportunity for the players to get us into the next round of the competition.

“There are so many 3G or 4G surfaces around it feels like we are playing on one every other week, and some of the boys prefer those surfaces to grass.”

He added: “Everyone should be proud of what we did in the cup last year – hopefully we can go one better this season.

“Last year, the cup reflected where we were in the league, we played some really good rugby but could throw in a poor performance.

“Unfortunately, we saved that one for the final and ended up being well beaten by Merthyr.”

Newport have already beaten RGC this season, a 15-8 triumph in Colwyn Bay in October sparking a five-match winning streak for Warlow’s charges.

And they go into tomorrow’s tie on the back of a 45-19 victory over Cross Keys at Pandy Park last Saturday.

“I was really happy with the win at Keys, particularly after we were really poor in the first 10 minutes,” he said.

“We’ve been to Pandy Park with high expectations so many times and they have sent us away with our tails between our legs.”

Giving an RGC take on the clash, full-back Dion Jones commented: “Whether it is in the league or the cup, we need to build some consistency in our performances and results.

“I know the cup brings back some good memories for many in the team and the supporters, and we have a chance to get a cup run going.

“It will be a tough one for us, playing last year’s finalists, and I am sure they will be looking to go one step further this time.

“The added incentive will be playing in the shadows of the Principality Stadium with the game being held at the Arms Park.”

Elsewhere, Greg Woods, who masterminded Keys’ memorable 2012 final triumph against Pontypridd, has been plotting Ebbw Vale’s path to the final.

The Steelmen, yet to win the competition, begin their campaign at Carmarthen Quins tomorrow (kick-off 2.30pm), a side they got the better of at Eugene Cross Park in November.

Two-time runners-up Quins are 16 points behind Ebbw in the Principality Premiership table.

Despite struggling in the league, Bedwas would expect to be too strong for Rhydyfelin when they head to the Championship side tomorrow, and the same goes for Bargoed at Newcastle Emlyn (both kick-off at 2pm).

Meanwhile, holders Merthyr go to Aberavon tonight in the first of 12 round one ties, with Keys, Pontypool, Newbridge, Cardiff Met and Bridgend all receiving byes into the last 16.