That is one of a number of long standing local derbies on the opeingin day of the 2004/2005 season that should see the fans flocking to get their first taste of competitive rugby action. Newport, coached for the first time by the Wales Under 19 and former Cross Keys coach David Rees this season, have been boosted by the decision of outside half Daniel Griffiths not to quit the club in favour of a lucrative contract in France. The talented fly-half's decision to turn down an offer from Bayonne is welcome news for the Black and Ambers, who have been ravaged by transfers in the off-season. Winger Craig Richards - who scored 30 tries last season - fullback Richard Davies
Griffiths scored a title-winning 337 points for Newport last season and has said 'no, thanks' to Bayonne to help the Rodney Parade club defend the trophy. "Newport have stood by me with a pretty good offer of a two-year deal and I want to repay them. I didn't want to turn my back on Wales after doing so well last season,"said the 25-year-old Griffiths. "I want to see how far I can go - I still hope to play regional rugby one day." Llanelli-born Griffiths - hailed in one French newspaper as the "King of Bayonne"- kicked seven penalty goals and a conversion
'Two championships in two countries in the same season is a bit unreal' he admitted. There will be some fascinating battles in the Blues and Ospreys areas with Cardiff hosting their new stable mates Pontypridd at the Arms Park and the 2003/2004 runners-up Neath entertaining Swansea at The Gnoll. "What a great way to start the season," was the reaction from Cardiff coach, and former Wales full back, Mike Rayer. "We were beaten twice by Ponty last season and they really were an excellent young side. "They played with all the traditional Ponty style and spirit and we know we will have to be at our best against them on the opening day of the season. It was a tough campaign for our young players last season, but they toughed it out and ended the season with two significant victories over Neath and Swansea to stay in the division. "With that experience behind us I think we will be much stronger this season. We've been back in training for the past two weeks and the fact we are starting at home will be a big bonus for us. "Games between Cardiff and Pontypridd are always special occasions, but this game will be a golden opportunity for the young players at both clubs to impress their regional selectors and coaches at Cardiff Blues." Newcomers Llanharan, last season's Lloyds TSB Welsh National League Division One champions, will kick-off their first game in the top flight with a home clash against Newbridge and Denis John says his players can't wait to step into the big league.
"Everyone in the club and the village is looking forward to the start of the Premiership season. Some of them just can't believe that we will be playing sides like Cardiff, Llanelli, Newport, Neath, Swansea and Pontypool," said John, the former Pontypridd, Cardiff and Wales coach. "The standard of rugby in Division One last season was high enough, but now we are stepping up another grade. It is going to be tough for us because we have never played at this level before and we will need to use the first month to get rid of our naivety. "The quality of opposition is going to make it a hard enough season, but the fact that three teams will be relegated at the end of the season is going to make it even more cut throat. That said, it is a challenge to be relished by every club and player in the Premiership." Konica Minolta Cup finalists Caerphilly travel to Bridgend, Aberavon host Llandovery, Bedwas entertain Llanelli and Carmarthen receive Ebbw Vale. With no relegation from the Premiership last season, Llanharan's introduction means there will be 17 clubs in the division this season. That means there will be one free club each weekend. The Welsh Rugby Union have agreed a policy of relegating three clubs from the Welsh Premiership this season as the league system returns to promotion and relegation at every level. Two teams will be promoted from Division One to return that division to 16 teams for the following season, and there will be promotion and relegations in all other divisions.