SEVEN years ago Pontypool RFC were on the brink of bankruptcy.

It has been a long road back to success since then, but tomorrow they will look to make the WRU National Cup final for the first time since 1991 by upsetting holders Merthyr.

And it will all start up front when Pooler, fresh from securing a hat-trick of Championship titles, look to stun the Ironmen at Ebbw Vale's Eugene Cross Park.

Premiership leaders Merthyr are hunting a double-double and are the biggest test for Leighton Jones' promotion hopefuls, who in recent years have claimed the scalps of Llanelli, Cardiff, Carmarthen Quins, Cross Keys and, most recently, Bridgend.

Under Dale McIntosh they are an uncompromising bunch – Merthyr have pace and quality out wide but it's their pack that often does the damage.

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"They have quality players like Craig Locke, Phil Rees and James Howe that are really physical and love to make big hits," said Pooler flanker Scott Matthews, who joined from Keys last summer.

"We know that we are going to be up against a big, solid pack and we have to have a good set piece, because if we don't then they will have lots of ball for their firepower out wide.

"Merthyr are a great side and are champions of the Premiership and cup, so fully deserve respect.

"But we always back ourselves and we are looking forward to the battle – these are the big games against quality opposition that we want to test ourselves in.

"We have to match their intensity at the ruck, look after our own ball and I know that we will be hard to break down because of our desire.

"They are favourites and have earned that with their performances over the last few years but we will fight for everything and if we play to our potential then we can do it."

Matthews enjoyed semi-final joy in 2014 when Cross Keys beat Llandovery (they lost to Pontypridd at Principality Stadium) and despair against Ponty in 2017 and 2015 either side of a loss to Carmarthen Quins.

Pooler have a glut of experienced players with flanker Rob Nash the man that lifted the cup for Keys in 2012 along with Danny Hodge (pictured below, right), while Geraint Walsh was a serial trophy winner with Pontypridd.

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Matthew hopes they can tap into that knowhow.

"Semi-finals are often tense and tight," said the flanker. "I tend to find that these bigger games fly by – you hit 30 minutes and it feels like 10 have gone.

"They are huge games and a lot of people turn up that aren't there every week. I know that we will have a big backing from Pontypool and I hope we give them plenty to cheer."

Pooler make three changes to the XV that beat Bridgend with Matthew Lewis, who struck a late drop goal winner at Cardiff Met last week, coming in for the injured Matthew Jones at fly-half.

Ollie Drake is also sidelined with Craig Price taking his place at tighthead while flanker Mike Herbert is in for Nash, who is fit enough for the bench.

Former Dragons loosehead Aaron Coundley captains the side on his return to Eugene Cross Park, where he played for Ebbw Vale as an academy prospect.

Merthyr make just one change to the side that beat fierce rivals Pontypridd 20-11 in the last eight with Jake Thomas coming in at blindside flanker.

Caldicot's Mike English is the referee, just as he was when Merthyr beat Pooler in the quarters last year. Kick-off is at 5.30pm

Pontypool: G Walsh, L Lewis, J Mahoney, K Meek, J Thomas, M Lewis, A Quick, A Coundley (captain), D Hughes, C Price, D Hodge, C Gregory, S Matthews, M Herbert, B Sparks. Replacements: A Watkins, C Hewlett, AN Other, B Lampitt, R Nash, M Luckwell, C Gullis, R Usher.

Merthyr: M Jarvis, T Gee, A Pinches, A Thomas, K Evans, G Davies, R Downes, J Howe, R Williams, J Rees, B Murphy, C Locke(captain), J Thomas, O Davies, P Rees. Replacements: M Dwyer, C Phillips, L Jones, H Barnes, J Davies, A Hoskins, J Martin, H Davies.

Referee: Mike English (Caldicot)