HE didn't quite get the dream send-off of a promotion party in Pontypool but Rob Nash, one of the most recognisable figures in Gwent club rugby, has stuck to his plans to hang up his boots.

The flanker, who lifted the WRU National Cup after Cross Keys' famous Principality Stadium triumph in 2012, has retired ahead of turning 34 next month.

The plan was to help his hometown club back to the Premiership before calling it a day but the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the season with unbeaten Pooler leading the Championship.

Nash, who was limited to three appearances in 2019/20, has resisted the temptation to give it one last crack.

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"I hadn't been enjoying it quite as much for a couple of years but was hoping that we would go up and that would be it," admitted the back row forward, who captained Pooler on his return to Wales from Coventry in 2014.

"It didn't end that way but this was always going to be my last year. I've had a couple of good seasons and worked my guts out as best as I could, but I'm nowhere near the player that I was.

"I'm still fit so physically I could still play but mentally it's not quite there. It's been a good few years, I always wanted to finish off at Pontypool and I am glad I got that chance."

Those high standards put Nash up there with the best players in semi-professional rugby, those that the regions look at and ponder giving a crack.

After starting off at Pooler, making 45 appearances between 2005 and 2008, he moved to Pandy Park and quickly became a talisman.

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The tight-knit team turned from being strugglers at the bottom of the Premiership to contenders near the top and enjoyed a stunning 2011/12.

The village club made it to the final of the British & Irish Cup, when overpowered by Munster A in Cork, but just over a week later christened the Pandy Park trophy cabinet.

Nash was the lucky one to lift the cup after Pontypridd were beaten 32-19 at Principality Stadium, and he got the bonus of the man of the match award.

"That was a great team and that season was awesome," said Nash. "There were a few years of hard work in the build-up and then there were a few years of getting close to the title without quite making it.

"Westy (director of rugby Jonathan Westwood) and Greg (Woods, head coach) did a great job of getting a bunch of misfits together, people who were pretty good players on the edge of having professional contracts but didn't quite make it.

"There were the likes of Gerwyn Price, Richard Cornock, Danny Hodge, Leon Andrews and loads of other great players throughout the side.

"They put us all together and we just enjoyed each other's company, which is a massive part of it. They were good times and the best years of my career.

"It was an environment where we didn't want to let anybody down. I didn't really care how much money that I was on, it was just playing for each other and that was one of the main reasons that we were so good.

"I guess that we were known for playing on the edge and I don't want to think about how many yellow cards that I got!

"There was a raw, rough edge to us but then there was the ability that (backs coach) Mark Ring brought out of us with some players who could play nice stuff.

"There was a great balance to the side and we definitely had that grit. I remember the BIC semi-final against Cornish Pirates – they were huge and we should never have beaten them but we just got stuck into them.

"That was probably our best performance, better than the final against Ponty. If we hadn't won that game then that season would have all been for nothing.

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"It was a great day and I'm humbled to have helped the club get its first bit of silverware and honoured to be part of that team."

Nash's exploits caught the eye of National League One club Coventry and an offer came in 2013 that was too good to turn down.

"Phil Maynard, who signed me, had watched me on TV and liked the fact that I was tenacious and energetic," he said. "I probably just never gave up and was non-stop… I'm a lot more chilled now!"

Perhaps it was that edge – and his self-confessed habit of sin-binnings – that meant a crack at regional rugby never came.

"I did some pre-season training with the Dragons and played in warm-up games against RGC and the Cornish Pirates, then I was a travelling reserve against Northampton," said Nash, whose good friend Lloyd Burns went from Keys to the World Cup with Wales.

"I never played a competitive game and I always felt that Paul Turner didn't quite have the confidence in me. I would have liked the chance just to see what it was like and if I could make it as a pro.

"I got offered a chance of a full-time contract with Cornish Pirates in the Championship and looking back that is one of my regrets, I should have gone and seen what I would have been like in a professional environment, training full-time.

"For some reason I didn't go but it would have been nice to at least see what it was like."

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A slight regret, but Nash can reflect on a terrific club career and is content with his decision to hang up the boots.

"I suppose I'll miss the camaraderie and the socialising, which is massive for creating team bonds, but I want to move into different ventures and have different ideas, so I'm just looking forward to that now," said Nash, who is studying an accountancy degree while working as a builder.

"I speak to a lot of people who say that I will miss it so much, that I should play for as long as I can, but I'm just done with this chapter now and have a new one starting,"