IT'S saying something that even Celtic, on a whopping 62-game unbeaten streak in the Scottish Premiership, are facing more of a title challenge than Pontypool.

The Hoops have just a one-point lead over Aberdeen at the head of the table but it's inevitable there will be another party at Parkhead come March.

The same is the case at Pontypool Park in what is, sadly, an all-too-easy defence of their WRU Championship crown. They are nine from nine and 15 points clear.

The Welsh Rugby Union should put a diary marker in now for their final home game: 'Saturday, April 7 – chairman Gareth Davies to present trophy after Pontypool v Newcastle Emlyn'.

Given the budget at their disposal, it's unsurprising that Pooler are easing away from their rivals and it mustn't be particularly stimulating for Leighton Jones' men, who are unable to gain promotion to the ring-fenced Premiership until at least 2020.

While Celtic's season is given some spice by European football, Pontypool have to wait until January when they start their WRU National Cup campaign, and even that features a round one clash with Championship rivals Tata Steel.

Head coach Jones will say that Pooler are motivated by getting better every week but it's an unsatisfactory plight. Whatever your level of sport, winning is always more enjoyable when pushed hard.

Their situation leaves just two prime targets – to go unbeaten in the league after losing just once, to Cardiff Met, last term and to add to the Llanelli and Cardiff Premiership scalps in knockout rugby.

It's a demoralising situation with Pontypool a big fish in a small pond, but their rivals will say it's a predicament of their own making after falling short in 2015/16.

That is undeniably true, the rules were made clear about entry to the revamped Premiership and Pooler fluffed their lines when finishing beneath Merthyr, Swansea, Bargoed and RGC 1404.

Nor do Pontypool get much sympathy from the top flight – in a Welsh Rugby Union review into the Premiership that I have seen, 10 clubs stated that they felt Pooler were causing an increase in wages.

That number was only exceeded by Merthyr on 12 with third-ranked Ebbw Vale down on three.

Pontypool continued to invest in their playing side this summer and it has to be said that some of their recent recruits haven't done much for the age profile of the squad.

That's their prerogative – owner Peter Jeffreys saved the club and can spend his money how he wants – and Pooler just have to look after Pooler, similar to how Ebbw Vale had to look after Ebbw Vale.

The Steelmen know what it's like to be on the outside looking in and when they finally got back to the Premiership in 2014/15 they made the play-offs then won the title the following campaign.

Nonetheless it's an odd situation of stasis in Pontypool – it would be unfair to suddenly change the ring-fencing pledge for Premiership clubs, many of whom have undertaken rebuilding programmes, yet it's uncompetitive for Pooler and the likes of Narberth, Trebanos and Tata who can't have a proper crack at a title.

Nor is it doing much good for rugby in the area; there is always the danger of a home game being a turkey shoot and there are just two derbies on the fixtures list, Newbridge visit on December 30 before a return clash at the Welfare on March 31.

Not only that but chief executive Ben Jeffreys said at the start of the season that their plight is stopping his family from pumping money into redeveloping Pooler's famous ground.

Sadly I have no solution to this sad, unsatisfactory situation. I have no silver bullets.

Pontypool may well be a "Premiership team" as Ben Jeffreys stated on Twitter yet they are condemned to two seasons of Championship cakewalks before a promotion tilt, their only consolation being that it will make their return all the sweeter.

South Wales Argus:

I'VE banged the drum for Elliot Dee with the enthusiasm of John Bonham through the years so it's a delight that the Dragons hooker has finally got a crack with Wales.

His call-up to the Test squad for the autumn internationals against Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa is not only richly-deserved but could propel the 23-year-old to new heights.

Dee has come back from a nightmare 2016/17 with energy, snap and a determination to enjoy every minute.

He has been superb in a Dragons team that, although improving, has still endured six defeats from nine games.

The front rower from Newbridge is an infectious figure on the field, he plays with energy, desire and a little bit of cockiness – no doubt characteristics that appeal to Warren Gatland, himself a former diminutive hooker.

Dee is also a lively, hugely-popular figure at the Dragons' training base in Ystrad Mynach yet last season exposed his vulnerability; he admitted that three ankle operations and nose surgery left him in a "dark place" and he feared for his Rodney Parade future.

Thankfully things have turned around quickly and he has penned a fresh three-year contract and earned that elusive Wales call-up.

Fingers crossed that will be followed by a cap or four in the coming weeks but whatever happens, Dee has been given a taste of Test camp and will want more.

The tussle for the 2 jersey is fierce with the Scarlets' Ryan Elias and Ospreys' Sam Parry, Scott Otten and Scott Baldwin still on regional duty rather than in the Vale of Glamorgan this autumn while Richard Hibbard's excellent Gloucester form is unlikely to end his exile.

Dee is now a World Cup contender and his hunger will only be fuelled by his autumn with Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric & Co.

The Dragons should reap the rewards from one of the good guys getting long overdue recognition.