MORE members of the Ebbw Vale pack have signed up for the Steelmen's return to the Premiership, writes Chris Kirwan.
Hooker Joe Franchi, loosehead prop John Lavender and lock/back row Rhys Clarke have penned fresh deals to stay on at Eugene Cross Park.
Props Ross Jones and Robert Sevenoaks, hooker Mathew Williams, locks Damien Hudd and Ashley Sweet and back row forwards Ronny Kynes, Cameron Regan and Gareth Rusby-Davies have already committed to staying with Ebbw next season.
This season is not yet done and dusted – Bargoed and Narberth stand between Vale and a perfect 26 Championship wins from 26 games – but the planning is well under way for life back in the top flight.
Head coach Jason Strange believes that "at least half a dozen" new recruits will be needed to bolster the squad for the intensity of the Premiership but Ebbw will be picky.
The former fly-half said: "The number one priority has been to retain the players that have earned us promotion and negotiations have been pretty straight forward; they have stayed loyal to us through the years and there is no reason to leave now that we are a Premiership club again.
"The squad has been superb for a number of seasons but we know that we have to strengthen in certain areas and we have been working hard to get the right fit.
"My phone has been red hot with players wanting to join us because Ebbw Vale is an attractive team to play for but we will be diligent about who we bring in.
"Our recruitment policy won't change at all. Over the past few years we have been successful by bringing in players with the right character to fit in and who want to develop and improve."
- Newbridge play their final game of the season when they travel to Bridgend Athletic tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.15pm).
Eleventh-placed 'Bridge's last encounter at the Welfare Ground of 2013/14 was an enjoyable one when they edged out Tondu 17-15 on Saturday.
Victory at the South Wales Police Ground would ensure Newbridge, who triumphed 38-20 when the teams met in September, finish a challenging campaign on a high.