EBBW Vale coach Mike Ruddock watched a brilliant Principality Cup quarter-final at a packed Pontypool Park and sent a message to the Gang of Six - "This is Valleys rugby".

Having suffered with injuries this season, Ruddock's side have made the Principality Cup semi-final, plus the European Shield quarter-final, although second from bottom of the Welsh/Scottish league.

With the Welsh clubs set to vote this Sunday on whether to include six or 12 teams in the future of our domestic game, Ruddock said the tense 27-22 win over Pontypool was typical of the local derbies that are the life-blood of Welsh rugby.

He said: "This is Valleys rugby and it's a powerful message as to what teams can achieve on a meagre budget and do it well.

"Look at the crowd here, if Ebbw Vale play Glasgow we get 1,500 if we are lucky. You play Pontypool home or away and you get nearly 10,000 - this is the strength of rugby in Wales and it's what it's about.

"Pontypool were magnificent and were a whisker away from making the semi-final, having turned over the Welsh champions (Swansea) and, I think, if some of the national team players had that attitude, we might see less defeats.

"We have had a few difficulties losing players to clubs who inflate the wage structures in Wales, but in fairness to Pontypool they showed as well that players in the Welsh First Division can easily step up to the Premier League."

Ruddock drew attention to the plight of two of his players - Paul Matthews and Matt James - who have been plucked from UWIC and Newbridge respectively and asked that if the number of clubs are cut to six, would they get their chance to prove their worth?

He said: "We have to be careful in Wales that we don't go the wrong way and cut back the avenue to stop guys like Matt James and Paul Matthews playing top-flight rugby.

"If the big six had been allowed to happen a few years ago, they would have never been given an opportunity.

"If you go to the Gang of Six plans, the 12 or so years we have had the leagues has been an absolute waste of time."

He added: "After seeing people like Maesteg, Abertillery and Pontypool demoted, the sides that were always competitive over the years are just pushed further and further down in the pecking order."