PONTYPOOL Rugby Club will be playing in the Welsh Premier Division this season under new management.

The Welsh Rugby Union and the consortium seeking to take over from Bob Jude's Pontypool Premier Rugby Ltd. have reached an agreement.

Although the 5pm deadline given to the WRU by the group for a written agreement passed yesterday, assurances have been given that the legal formalities will be completed within days.

WRU director of rugby Terry Cobner turned up at training last night and spoke to consortium members after a day of legal representations.

Cobner declined to comment, but consortium spokesman Arthur Crane said: "We have had very positive talks with various members of the WRU who have indicated a way forward which we intend to pursue in the best interests of the club and town.

"I think with Terry Cobner here this evening you can read between the lines."

Prospective club coach Steve Jones (pictured) was far more forthright. "Terry Cobner told us to go full steam ahead. It's just a matter of time. I'm 100% confident the new show's on the road," he said.

"It's the end of a nightmare for everyone concerned and we can now move forward and sign players.

"It's a new challenge, but we relish that. I believe we still have the players here to mount a championship bid."

Prospective team manager Tony Clarke (the new group have yet to officially appoint officials) said: "When everything's signed it will be as good as winning the championship.

"All day I had been walking around in a daze dreading having to give the players bad news. But now it's good news I feel for them.

"The club means everything to the town and the town means everything to the club and it's up to us to make sure what has happened this season never happens again."

Scrum half Nicky Lloyd commented: "It sounds like great news for a great club. It would have been a tragedy had Pontypool gone tothe wall. I'm not a Pontypool boy but I know how much support this club has."

The new consortium's steering committee has been confirmed as businessmen Jeff Taylor, Alan Francis and Steve Pritchard, journalist Eddie Butler, Arthur Crane (all members of a former group which once ran Pontypool's affairs) and Colin Tuckwell.

Meanwhile, the club are asking volunteers prepared to help make the Pooler Aid day a big success to turn up at the Unicorn on Sunday (3.30pm).

l Pontypool's rescue came just too late to prevent club record try-scorer Lenny Woodard signing for rivals Aberavon today.

"I was just too far down the road to change my mind," said Woodard, who had hoped for a regional contract and had been linked with a move to Bristol.

"But I'm delighted Pontypool's future seems secure and hope I may return to play for them in a season or two."