ABERAVON V NEWPORT (Tomorrow, KO 2.30pm)
SKIPPER Gethin Robinson believes Newport enjoyed the perfect preparation for tomorrow’s Premiership opener at Aberavon after testing themselves against a familiar foe.
The 29-year-old tighthead, who faces his first season as a semi-professional after being released by the Dragons, is following in the footsteps of his front row pals Dai Pattison and Andrew Brown in leading the Black and Ambers.
He is unable to do that from the front line at the Talbot Athletic Ground because the foot injury sustained in February means he is a couple of weeks from full fitness.
But Robinson, who has played 209 times for the club, was impressed by what he saw from the stands in New-port’s final pre-season game.
Last weekend they travelled to Penzance to take on the Cornish Pirates, a side they know well courtesy of some engrossing British and Irish Cup tussles.
The Black and Ambers were eventually downed 32-18 by the full-timers who were runners-up in the English Championship last season.
“We got a lot from the game,” said Robinson. “The Pirates are always strong up front and tested us in areas that needed testing ahead of Aberavon.
“If it were not for a couple of missed opportunities then we might even have won but it was a game that definitely showed we are building nicely.
“It’s a tough start for us because Aberavon are traditionally strong up front and have become a real threat behind in recent seasons but hopefully we’ve got enough firepower to cause problems.”
Robinson is not in the mix but a busy summer of recruitment means that Sven Cronk and his coaching team have some selection headaches.
An indication of their improved strength in depth is the battle for the start at scrum-half where last year’s player of the year James Leadbeater is now up against new arrivals Rhys Downes, Andrew Quick and Dragons prospect Luke Crane.
Robinson said: “There’s a great atmosphere at the club again and not being involved yet is killing me!
“For the first time in two years we have a really strong squad.
“At times we were training with six players last season and wouldn’t know who would be playing in some pivotal roles before the weekend.
“You just can’t perform on a Saturday if you don’t have the proper preparation but I think we are in pretty good shape this season – I expect us to do well and be in the mix at the top of the table.”