Ebbw eyeing promotion after gaining A licence
5:31pm Friday 13th September 2013 in Gwent Rugby
EBBW Vale host Bargoed this weekend knowing that if they retain their Championship title then they will return to the top flight of Welsh club rugby, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Steelmen have been awarded an A licence by the Welsh Rugby Union, paving the way for promotion to the Premiership.
Ebbw won the Division One East title in 2011 and 2012 and the Championship last term. If they finish top of the pile again then they will replace the team that finishes bottom of the top flight.
That is no certainty because last year's runners-up Bargoed strengthened considerably over the summer, Pontypool look in far better shape and new boys RGC 1404 showed the Steelmen that they are no mugs despite going down 31-16 last weekend.
But Vale have been given extra motivation to continue in their winning ways and bring the likes of Newport, Cross Keys, Pontypridd, Neath and Cardiff back to Eugene Cross Park for league encounters.
Not only that, but club officials hope it can give a shot in the arm for rugby in the area.
"The demanding criteria covers facilities, rugby, medical and financial which now allows the club to continue its strategy of becoming the centre of excellence for rugby in North Gwent," said club secretary Ian James.
"With the recent news that the fantastic new Ebbw Fawr Learning Community was granted School of Rugby status by the WRU, the groundwork has been put in place to give the youth of Blaenau Gwent a clear pathway to the higher levels of professional rugby in Wales."
Ebbw romped to the title last year, winning 25 of their 26 games, scoring 1,132 points and crossing for 159 tries.
Bargoed finished 25 points back but the Steelmen are not counting their chickens and want the backing of the town to help achieve their Premiership target.
"In recognition of this achievement the club would like to do two things," continued James.
"Firstly acknowledge the support of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and secondly open up our gates for free to the mouth-watering fixture next Tuesday evening when Ebbw Vale take on Bristol University at Eugene Cross Park (kick-off 7.15pm).
"This fixture allows an ideal opportunity to see the talent being developed in the area and perhaps take up membership to support the club through the season."
If the Championship winners are a club without an A licence then there will be no relegation from the Premiership.
It is understood that RGC 1404 have also been given the green light for promotion.
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