BUILDING FROM STRENGTH

The Neath pack made huge strides last season and the good news for Gnoll supporters is that all will be back for the 2017/18 season.

In the front-row, loose-head props Ben Uphill and Neil White will continue to provide the scrummaging fulcrum alongside tight heads Geraint James and Ryan Thomas and keep an eye out too for young Callum Jones who has already shown his versatility in appearing on both sides of the scrum.

The Welsh All Blacks are spoilt for choice at hooker where the experienced Sion Crocker, Aled Morris and rising star Ifan Phillips are as strong and lively a crop as any in the Premiership.

In the second row the hard-working Rhys Jones and lofty Jon Barley settled down to form an effective partnership. Their play compliments each other nicely but fellow lock Jonny Griffiths suffered a knee injury in the final game against Newport which will sideline him awhile. Opportunity knocks therefore for young Matthew Davies who showed promise last season and is training hard.

Neath ended the season with a settled back-row combination of skipper Jordan Collier, the ever-consistent Leon Ward and the emerging Charlie Davies who settled into the No.7 shirt after injuries to Alun Jones and Calum Davies.

Neath are hoping that Academy flanker Josh Cole will be fit after a season out through injury as he too has massive potential and it is also hoped that No.8 Scott Hicks recovers from his knee injury while Neath are taking a close look in pre-season training at some interesting additions who have expressed a desire to join the club.

Team Manager Martyn Morris said, “We made a lot of progress last season not least up front. Gareth Llewellyn is a very constructive coach – he puts a lot of emphasis on positive, straight scrummaging and, as you’d expect from a man who won 96 caps as a second row for Wales, our line-out generally functioned well.

“We have a powerful set-piece which we will continue to develop and we are looking to build too on our increasingly effective assertiveness around the park. The team is growing in experience and I believe we will be more than competitive. Our doors are never closed to emerging talent and we are looking to improve again.”