Cross Keys begin a new era on Sunday as they play their first game outside of the Welsh Premiership, since the inception of Regional rugby at the start of the 2003/04 season, some 16 years ago, following their relegation from the top table of club rugby in Wales at the end of last season.
The Keys might be preparing for life in a new league for this season against several teams they have not faced for a number of years, if at all in the past but this weekend they will open the campaign against very familiar opponents as they head to the Bridge Field to take on Bedwas, who like Keys ended their ever present status in the post regional rugby, Welsh Premiership after their relegation at the end of the 2018/19 season.
A big rebuild has occurred at both clubs over the summer with a number of key players leaving for pastures and being tempted by offers to stay in the Premiership or being rewarded in other ways for some, whilst moving to different clubs.
With that in mind the Keys squad for the coming season looks different to what it has in recent seasons, although there will be more than a few familiar faces with stalwarts such as new club captain Tom Lampard, Richard Cornock and Joe Thomas proving that loyality does still exist amongst modern day players as they have signed up for another campaign with The Keys.
The Cross Keys side selected by Morgan Stoddart and new forward’s coach Saul Nelson for Sunday’s game at Bedwas is mixture of youth and experience which is likely to be the case throughout the coming campaign for an exciting looking Cross Keys squad. In the pack Richard Cornock and Jordan Rogers are the props selected, with Rogers joining permanently over the summer after several appearances on permit from Risca last season. They are joined in the front row by hooker Connah Vaughan who re-joins Keys following a spell with Neath last term. In the second row Harvey Reader is joined by Scott Andrews who appears for Keys on permit from Cardiff and will be just 7 games short of his 100th appearance for the club when he starts on Sunday. The back row sees skipper Tom Lampard pack down on the blindside with Joe Thomas on the openside flank and Max George, who re-joins Keys after a few seasons away with both Newport and Penallta starting at number 8.
The back line sees a new half back pairing formed where Aeron Bidgood, another summer arrival from Penallta starts at scrum half alongside outside half Kieran Hill, a Bristolian who has joined from Old Redcliffians and has impressed in his pre-season outings for Keys. In the centre Corey Nicholls lines up alongside new arrival Adam Tetley, who appeared on permit for Keys last season from Risca. On the wings Wes Cunliffe lines up along with Josh Adams, having both stayed put with the Keys and at full back there will be a competitive debut for the youngest member of the O’Brien trilogy as Loui O’Brien, brother of former Keys favourite, and current Scarlet Angus and current Newport outside half Matt starts for Keys after joining from Caerleon.
On the bench, Keys will need to get used to only using 5 replacements in their league games in fitting with the setup outside of the Welsh Premiership. The front row cover is provided by hooker Zac Hewlett, another familiar face on permit from Cardiff and prop Scott Hoskins. Young second row Callum Hague will hope to make his debut after joining from the Dragons Academy. With Josh Thomas, who has signed from Oakdale and Zac Bartlett both looking to make their competitive debuts for the club.
The Cross Keys team in full is:-
15. Loui O’Brien
14. Josh Adams
13. Adam Tetley
12. Corey Nicholls
11. Wes Cunliffe
10. Kieran Hill
9. Aeron Bidgood
1. Richard Cornock
2. Connah Vaughan
3. Jordan Rogers
4. Scott Andrews (permit – Cardiff RFC)
5. Harvey Reader
6. Tom Lampard (c)
7. Joe Thomas
8. Max George
Replacements: 16. Zac Hewlett (permit – Cardiff RFC), 17. Scott Hoskins, 19. Callum Hague, 21. Josh Thomas, 22. Zac Bartlett.
Bedwas v Cross Keys WRU Specsavers National Championship
Date: Sunday 8th September 2019
Venue: Bridge Field, Bedwas
Kick Off: 2.30pm