BOSS Leighton Jones says Pontypool have a hunger to finish the job of returning to the Principality Premiership after retaining the core of his Championship-winning squad.

Pooler won a third title on the spin but suffered agony in their bid for the top flight after losing a play-off with Llanelli.

However, 28 players have signed up for another push for the Premiership to the delight of head coach Jones.

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"Despite the huge disappointment of missing out on promotion in May, to have once again retained such a high percentage of our squad demonstrates the hunger within this group to finish what we started and take this club back to the Principality Premiership,” said the former hooker.

"It will be the most competitive Championship season since I took the job in 2016 and that's hugely motivating for us all.

“The Pooler faithful will have some big Gwent derbies against Cross Keys, Bedwas and Bargoed to look forward to and the prospect of facing Neath again in league competition is exciting.

“To fall at the final hurdle against Llanelli was a bitter pill to swallow, but we will come back stronger and more motivated than ever before as a group.

We got a lot right last season and will look to build on those strong foundations.”

Up front Pooler have retained props Aaron Coundley, Corey Hewlett and Craig Price, hookers Darren Hughes, Lewis Ball, Alex Watkins and Ben Parry, locks Danny Hodge and Curtis Gregory and back row forwards Craig Attwell, Michael Herbert, Brendan Lampitt, Scott Matthews, Rob Nash, Ben Sparks and Jordan Williams.

They are charged with providing quality ball for scrum-halves Martin Luckwell and Aaron Quick, fly-half Matthew Lewis, fly-half/centre Kieran Meek, centres Dan Robinson, Joel Mahoney, Clayton Gullis and Ceri Morris, wings Lloyd Lewis, Jordan Thomas and Rhodri Usher and full-back Geraint Walsh.

Signings are set to be announced in the coming days but six players have headed out of the door – prop Ollie Drake, front rower Jamie Jeune, locks Richard East and Ben Egan and flanker Cameron Watson-Boycott and wing Lewis Prothero.