Principality Premiership leaders Neath return to league action at Ebbw Vale on Sunday knowing that they need to win to extend their lead at the top of the table. (KO 2.30pm)
Last weekend, Neath gained an impressive 38-21 win against Heriot's in Edinburgh, running in six first-half tries in the process but they invariably find Vale a tough nut to crack and are mindful that the Steelmen eased their relegation worries with a fine 23-6 win over Bedwas last Sunday.
The match throws up an intriguing clash of the coaches with Neath's Patrick Horgan having completed a 2-year sabbatical at Ebbw Vale who are now coached by Rowland Phillips who coached Neath for the last 6 seasons.
It will be a day to remember for loose-head prop Nicky Downs who makes his 100th appearance for Neath. He is the fourth Neath prop to do so in semi-professional days, following Paul Jones, Andrew Howell and Craig Mitchell into the club capped ranks.
Neath make several changes from the side that won at Heriot's with centre Nathan Brew and scrum-half Kevin Farrell returning after resting last week. Captain Arwel Thomas takes over at outside-half from Gareth McCarthy who passed the 150-point mark last week and Alec Jenkins replaces Richard Smith.
Up front, Martin Jones, Ashleigh James, Neil Edwards and Mike Collins resume but the Blacks are without lock Haydn Pugh who scored their 100th try of the season at Heriot's before suffering a shoulder injury. Super-skilled hooker Gerwyn Price is on the bench.
Neath Head Coach Patrick Horgan said: "We played some excellent rugby in the first-half at Heriot's last week to maintain our momentum but now we must focus on our bread and butter - the Welsh Premiership.
"Several players stated their case for selection at Heriot's and there is strong competition for starting places in our squad.
"Everybody in the squad is pulling together and we believe that we can still improve. We will need to if we are to overcome Ebbw Vale who had a very good win over Bedwas last week to move clear of relegation.
"They will be well-prepared by Rowland whose attention to detail is well-respected at The Gnoll. He has already improved their defence and nobody at Neath will be surprised by that.
"A strong display is required and will be demanded by our vocal support who were absolutely superb at Heriot's, one of whose members described them as 'a credit to the club and to their country' which was great to hear."
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