THERE will once again be an added importance to the Gwent derbies in the Principality Premiership today, with three of the four teams involved scrapping for their lives near the foot of the table.

As many as five clubs could go down to the Championship at the end of the season and, as it stands, Bedwas and Bargoed occupy two of those unenviable positions.

With Neath all but relegated, it’s looking like four from the next five will be battling it out to finish outside the dreaded drop zone.

While the bottom four lose their top-flight status automatically, the side in 12th would be involved in a play-off against the winners of the Championships, most likely Pontypool, to decide their fate.

Cross Keys are one of those in the fight for survival, but while they sit in the first safe spot, Morgan Stoddart’s men lead the rest of the strugglers by just a single point.

Bridgend come next, followed by Llanelli, Bedwas, Bargoed and then Neath, with 11 points separating Keys and one-from-bottom Bargoed – and the two clash at Pandy Park today.

Bargoed have only managed three wins this term, however, one of those came in the reverse fixture between the teams last September.

Keys won last time out, overcoming troubled Neath at the Gnoll, and Stoddart makes a couple of changes from that encounter for this afternoon’s crunch match.

In the pack, Richard Cornock moves across the front row to replace Corey Hewlett at loosehead with Scott Evans coming back in to start against his old side on the tighthead.

The back row sees Garin Price switch to the openside from number eight after Joe Thomas injured a shoulder against Neath.

And another former Bargoed man, Ieuan Jones, returns from injury to start at eight, with skipper Damian Welch continuing on the blindside.

There is a change at scrum-half where Dragons academy ace Iwan Burgwin gets the nod following Owain Leonard’s injury last weekend.

Centre Dylan Fidler comes back in to partner Adam Jones in the midfield, Leon Andrews drops to full-back and Carwyn Penny moves from 15 to the wing as Llywarch Ap Myrddin makes way.

On the bench, scrum-half is covered by Josh Guy who is on permit from Swansea.

Bargoed, captained by prop Rhys Morgan, have several former Keys regulars in their XV, namely number eight Adam Powell, centre Barney Nightingale and half-back pairing James Leadbeater and Josh Prosser.

Today’s other big derby is at the Bridge Field where Bedwas host Newport.

Newport won 22-17 when they played each other at Rodney Parade in September and the two are now separated by nine places and 34 points.

After making 11 changes in each of the Black and Ambers’ last two games, head coach Craig Warlow goes with just the three this time.

They are all in the backs where Haydn Simons, Haydn Palmer and Andy Evans take the 10, 12 and 14 jerseys respectively.

For the hosts, head coach Stefan Sankala brings in winger Deon Smith from the Dragons academy for his Bedwas debut and Luke Crane starts at scrum-half in place of the injured Tom Rowlands.

In the forwards, Chris Budgen replaces injured Rhys Hutcherson at tighthead and captain Alun Rees starts at hooker.

There could be a debut off the bench for Dragons academy prop Luke Yendle and returning replacement centre Connor Edwards, also from the Dragons, is set for his first appearance in Bedwas colours this season.

Meanwhile, Ebbw Vale are also in a game involving a relegation contender.

They take on Bridgend at the Brewery Field and Greg Woods goes with a starting XV showing three changes in personnel from last Friday’s victory over RGC 1404.

Matthew Flanagan replaces Dai Jones at scrum-half, hooker Joe Franchi comes in for Rhys Francis and Kristian Parker packs down alongside skipper Ashley Sweet in the second row.

Parker’s return sees Rhys Clarke switch from lock to blindside flanker and Cameron Regan move to eight with Lewis Young dropping to the bench.

All games kick-off at 2.30pm.

Bargoed (at Cross Keys): C Jones; D Dyer, D Humphries, B Nightingale, A Norton; J Prosser, J Leadbeater; R Morgan (capt), R Buckley, Alex Gardner-Key, G Edmunds, B Morgan, L Blacker, G Rogers, A Powell. Reps: M Bancroft, J Purcell, J Howells, W Langley, C Davies, A Gibson, K Bale, M Kavanagh.

Bedwas (home to Newport): J Scrivens; J Rees, T Hoppe, A Williams, D Smith; E Lloyd, L Crane; B Toms, A Rees (capt), C Budgen, J Davies, G Allen, C Hudd, J Armitage, N Hudd. Reps: M Dacey, S Cochrane, L Yendle, J Richards, D Rogers, R Harries, J Chilcott, C Edwards.

Cross Keys (home to Bargoed): L Andrews; C Penny, A Jones, D Fidler, W Cunliffe; J Botica, I Burgwin; R Cornock, E Shipp, S Evans, S Andrews, T Lampard, D Welch (capt), G Price, I Jones. Reps: R Jenkins, T Hansen, G Carpenter, J Carlin, W Griffiths, R Budina, J Guy, S Majkic.

Ebbw Vale (at Bridgend): D Haymond; S Thomas, J Lewis, D Franchi, T Fricker; Rh Jones, M Flanagan; L Garrett, J Franchi, R Sevenoaks, K Parker, A Sweet (capt), R Clarke, L Evans, C Regan. Reps: R Francis, Ro Jones, N Thomas, L Young, O Young, D Jones, A Owen, P King.

Newport (at Bedwas): D Richards; A Evans, C Smith, Ha Palmer, E Frewen; H Simons, R James (capt); D Preece, W Evans, T Piper, J Bartlett, D Partridge, A Mann, K Tayler, M Reed. Reps: He Palmer, L Smout, J Skinner, M Burgess, T Lucas, C Ayling, D Thomas.