NEWPORT second row Chay Billen and Ebbw Vale coach Gareth Nicholas are in complete agreement - this week's row between the clubs will have no affect on Saturday's Premier Division clash at Rodney Parade.

The row over regional matters had threatened to prevent the game going ahead.

Billen, last season's Vale captain, said: "Players stay away from those things. It's up to the clubs to sort them out. We just get on with preparing for the game."

Nicholas commented: "To be honest I pay no attention to the politics off the field and the players are the same. We just want to play rugby."

Billen was at Ebbw Vale when Newport benefactor Tony Brown was banned from the ground last year and said: "That didn't affect the players either. We didn't know anything about it until afterwards. Players just want to play."

Both sides made flying starts last week, Newport beating Pontypool and Vale defeating Pontypridd, and Nicholas sees no reason why his side can't win again tomorrow despite being without influential outside-half Byron Hayward who has a knee injury.

"We've decided not to risk Byron as it's a long hard season and there's no point just for the sake of one game," said Nicholas.

Saturday is sure to be a tense affair and Billen is keen to put in an impressive performance against his old club.

"I wasn't happy with my display against Pontypool," said Billen. "I didn't get into the game, but I don't know why.

"I'm keen to put that right against my former club.

"After Newport, their's is the result I look for every week, but I was very worried for them in the summer when they seemed to be struggling for experienced players.

"But Gareth Nicholas is a good coach and a good guy and has pulled things together and, like Newport, they have a mix of youth and experience."

As for Newport's chances this season, he said: "I have been very, very impressed by the skill levels of the youngsters.

"To be honest, when I signed I was not sure what I was going into and perhaps ever so slightly worried that we might not have enough experience. But the youngsters have held their hands up, Leigh's (coach Leigh Jones) planning is paying off and we are a very professional ship."

Of Billen's move to Newport, Nicholas said: "I've got no score to settle with him. He's a good man.

"He was very open and honest with me in the summer and was offered a very good rugby package which was too tempting for him to turn down and I respect that."

Newport have signed former Wales A second row Steve Martin from Neath and he is a replacement tomorrow while they have also re-signed Sven Cronk, who packs down in the front row, giving the side added experience.

Altogether they make five changes from the Pontypool game with wing Rob Allen in for his first game. The one Vale change from last week is Daniel Phillips for Hayward at outside half.

Newport: C Richards, R Allen, R Payne, S Tuipulotu, W Kershaw-Naylor, D Griffiths, L Lane, G Robinson, J Richards, S Cronk, M Veater, C Billen, M Popham, G Gravell, S Waldron. Replacements: G Horigan, R Thomas, S Martin, R Dale, A Jerrett, S Williams, R Shorney, C Thomas. Kick-off 2.30pm.

Ebbw Vale: A McLaughlin, S Horner, M Griffiths, T Bagg, I Higgins, D Phillips, G Betts, L Davies, K Crawford, K Gay, K Faletau, R Clarke, G Green, M Scudamore, M Tuipulotu. Replacements: K Kinsey, I Jones, H Jones, R Williams, R Harris, S Davies, R Davies.