MIKE Ruddock was in charge of Wales, Tony Blair was prime minister and England were in the middle of a thrilling bid to end 16 years of Ashes misery when Tom Lampard and Richard Cornock first pulled a Cross Keys jersey.

Fifteen years and a combined tally of 730 games later, the forwards are waiting for the green light to continue to lead the charge at Pandy Park.

Throughout the peaks and troughs at the Keys, reassurance has been provided by the imposing figure of prop Cornock, known as 'Beef', and the lanky frame of Lampard, a back rower whose mobility has even led to an appearance as a makeshift wing.

The pair made their club debuts together versus the Army in a friendly in August 2005 and their league debuts at Bedwas the following month.

Plenty of players headed for the exit when the cash-strapped club endured a torrid 2018/19 that ended in relegation from the Premiership.

But Cornock and Lampard stayed put; the duo helped head coach Morgan Stoddart steady the ship in the Championship.

Time to hang up the boots? Not quite yet.

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Lampard is just three appearances away from racking up 400 for the Keys and even though limbs are a bit stiffer on a Sunday, the 35-year-old still gets a thrill from taking to the field.

"I am still going. It is getting a bit harder as I get older but you just want to keep doing it," said the builder, who previously played for Newbridge and Fleur-de-Lys.

"Rugby's has been a part of my life since I was 10 years old and it will be a hard thing when I have to stop, but I can't see that at the minute!

"I am excited about reaching 400 and it will be a nice achievement. I suppose it could be seen as a sign of commitment and that I've enjoyed being with the club."

Lampard, who would have passed the landmark were it not for a torn bicep last season, has made Pandy Park home.

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"I was picked up by 'Bonker' (Robert Beale) and 'Woodsy' (Greg Woods) and I just loved the atmosphere and training," he said. "The Keys supporters took me under their wing and I've never wanted to move.

"I had pace back in the day so I've played wing, centre, second row, 6, 7, 8… for a few minutes in games when we've been down a man I've even played scrum-half!"

Asking Lampard for a highlight was always going to be a daft question given the magical 2011/12 campaign that ended in a British & Irish Cup run that ended in defeat to Munster A in Cork and then the thrilling win against Pontypridd in the WRU National Cup final at Principality Stadium.

"That year was special and I love going into the clubhouse and seeing the big poster of the cup win as you walk in. Good memories," he said.

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Cornock racked up 32 appearances in that stunning season with just one of them off the bench.

The tighthead made his 333rd outing for the club against Ystalyfera in the final game before the season was suspended for coronavirus.

Coming off the bench the 34-year-old helped to secure the win with a penalty try thanks to a dominant scrum.

Like Lampard, the love for the game still burns bright.

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"I'll play until I'm not wanted anymore! I don't really want to retire," said Cornock, who moved to Cardiff after he had played for Wales at the 2007 Under-21 World Championship in France but returned to Keys in 2011.

"There had been a tough couple of years leading up to last season but it has been good to get a new bunch of boys together and build a new team.

"I still like playing – I don't think that I would like to do anything else on a Saturday.

"It's the craic with the boys, I enjoy the games but it's just getting together on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with a bunch of mates.

"We've had some good players through the years that have gone on to do bigger and better things like Lloyd Burns and Toby Faletau.

"Keys is a great club and we will go again."