BOSS Greg Woods believes bulked-up Ebbw Vale will be a bigger ball-carrying threat in the Premiership next season, writes Chris Kirwan.

The Steelmen have already cemented their pack for the 2020/21 campaign with hooker Joe Franchi leading the charge, succeeding stalwart Ashley Sweet as captain after the lock from Pontypool left for a new challenge.

Ebbw have retained the core of their front eight and bolstered their ranks with a number of versatile forwards.

Number eight Ethan Doyle, a 2016 title winner with the Steelmen, has returned and incoming are back rowers Alex Grey and Scott Parsons, lock Kyle Evans and tighthead Scott Evans.

In addition to the new playing recruits, many of whom can play more than one position, Woods has strengthened his management team with ex-prop Gethin Robinson, who moves from Cwmbran.

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Lock/flanker Dan Hill led the Premiership for carries last season – going on the charge 203 times – but the head coach believes there will be plenty of others offering themselves up as options when the go-ahead is given for rugby to return.

"I am really pĺeased with the make-up of the forward pack this year," said Woods, himself a former hooker. "It's a fantastic blend of young and experienced players.

"It's been an aim of ours to increase the physical size and ball carrying capability of the pack and I believe we have done that this spring.

"We want to create a really competitive environment where players will have to train at matchday intensity to warrant their selection.

"The physical size, competition for starting spots and the overall mobility of the forwards we have will stand us in good stead in the Premiership, where we face different playing environments every week.

"As a group of coaches we can't wait to work with the squad in pre-season".

Ebbw re-signed looseheads Ross Jones, Luke Garrett and Joel Harries, hookers Franchi and Mikhail Blake and tightheads Rob Sevenoaks, Dave Whiting and Ellis Evans.

Hill and second row forward Corey Talbot will be back in 2020/21 along with back rowers Lewis and Owen Young, Dawid Rubasniak and Harry Harding.

Ebbw's relegation duel with Bridgend was ended when the Welsh Rugby Union cancelled their competitions due to coronavirus.

The Steelmen had put themselves in a strong position to avoid the drop thanks to a strong run of form since the turn of the year.

They had a eight-point lead over the Ravens, who had just four games left to Vale's five, when the campaign was suspended and then scratched.

Ebbw would have currently been in the middle of fixtures against Scottish opposition – Watsonians, Heriot's, Stirling County, Boroughmuir, Southern Knights and Ayrshire Bulls – only for the pandemic to scupper the new tournament.