Principality Premiership champions Llanelli will launch the defence of their title away to Newport on Saturday, 3 September. Following that opening round game, the side, who clinched the league with a comprehensive win over Pontypridd in the Play-Off Final last May, then host three home matches, against Llandovery, Bedwas and Carmarthen Quins to complete their September fixture list.
Llanelli Head of Rugby Anthony Buchanan said: “We’re looking forward to the start of the season, I’m sure as champions everyone will want to perform well against us and that can only be a good thing for the youngsters we’ll be aiming to bring through again.
“We expect to have a fresh squad with a number of players from last season stepping up to the Scarlets, especially in World Cup year, and that’s fine with us, we see that as our purpose as a club. There will be a lot of pressure on the young players coming into our set-up, starting with an away fixture at Newport in the opening round. We started there last year and lost in the last few minutes, so it’s a tough place to go but a good test. Then we will look forward to three home games, which are must-wins in this competition if you want to do well.
“Our new-look coaching team of Leigh Davies and Ioan Cunningham, overseen by Vernon Cooper and Kevin George, will I’m sure prepare the team as best as possible to defend our title but we take our responsibilities as a feeder club to the Scarlets very seriously and we will be taking each game as it comes.”
Meanwhile, Principality Premiership newcomers Bridgend are itching to get the new season started. They return to the top flight of Welsh domestic rugby after being absent for two seasons and kick off the season with a short trip to last season’s SWALEC Cup finalists Aberavon, followed by two prime home fixtures, against Newport and Swansea. They complete their September line-up by travelling to Church Bank to face Llandovery.
Head coach Steve Tandy said, “I’ve got butterflies in my stomach already on hearing the first few fixtures and I know the players and supporters can’t wait to see the fixtures for real.
“It’s obviously going to be a step up for us this season, in terms of the physicality of the Premiership and skill levels, but to be starting with a local derby against Aberavon is fantastic and then to welcome the big guns of Newport and Swansea back to the Brewery Field is something everyone involved with the club and the town will look forward to. We’re not going to have any pre-planned targets for the season. We’ve prepared well, we should be in good shape for the start of the season and we’ll just concentrate on performing well each week and see where that takes us.”
The Principality Premiership will once again culminate in a play-off structure to determine the champion club and the sixth club to represent Wales in the British & Irish Cup for 2012/2013. Following this season, the Principality Premiership will be reduced from 14 to ten clubs, with those ten clubs known by the end of 2011.
WRU Head of Rugby Joe Lydon said, “We are once again looking forward to another exciting and competitive season of Principality Premiership rugby, with the fixtures already whetting the appetite of players, coaches, commercial partners and supporters alike.
“We know the play-off element to the league adds to the competitiveness of the Premiership for a large number of clubs as was seen last season with Cross Keys clinching the final British & Irish Cup spot by beating Newport in the qualification play-off final and Llanelli pipping Pontypridd to the post in the champion club play-off final.
“Our recent review of the Premiership clearly identified that the agreed role and purpose of the Division is yet to be fully realised but the recently announced reforms to be introduced ahead of the 2012/13 season, including the reduction of the league to ten clubs, mean the increase of on and off field resources across the Premier Division, and enhanced performance, development opportunities and sustainability.
“The planned reform of the Premiership will better enable the league to flourish as an entity and will, I am sure, help to underpin the player development models in conjunction with our regional partners, producing fitter, more skilful players for the Regions and hopefully the National Squad.”