CLUB captain Rhys Jenkins believes Newport’s run to the National Cup final has come at a time when the Black and Ambers are well on the way to rediscovering their own identity following the events of last summer.

The Gwent side could win Welsh rugby’s premier knockout competition for only the third time on Sunday (kick-off 5.35pm) when they face league leaders Merthyr at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

For Newport, cup winners in 1977 and 2001, an appearance in the final comes nearly 12 months after the WRU’s purchase of their Rodney Parade ground as part of a takeover of the Newport Gwent Dragons.

Some feared Newport would cease to exist if the deal didn’t get the approval of the club’s shareholders and there was plenty of work behind the scenes to make sure the conquerors of the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies remained a part of rugby in Wales.

This weekend sees the Black and Ambers share the big stage with the Ironmen from Merthyr, who are playing in their first final, and Jenkins wants it to be a day to remember for his Newport charges.

“It’s massive for the club,” he said. “It’s about the transition the club has gone through in the last year with the takeover by the WRU and the effort people have put in.

“We’ve got more of a community spirit behind us now, everyone is backing each other, whereas before everything that happened was perhaps region orientated, now it’s club orientated.

“One of the good things to come out of the takeover is that our identity is back.

“I think the supporters are buying into it more because they can see the identity of the club more.

“There’s a lot more people coming back, some who haven’t been there for years, and I think the ticket sales for the final have gone through the roof.

“It’s nice to see everyone coming back and giving us the support which, hopefully, we deserve.”

Jenkins played his first rugby in six months at Aberavon last weekend after recovering from ankle ligament damage.

And, rather graciously, he says that if Newport were to beat Merthyr then he wouldn’t lift the cup.

“I managed 40 minutes at Aberavon so I’ve had a bit of stick off the boys about it being a miraculous recovery just in time for the cup final,” he added.

“I had an ankle ligament operation and it has been a hard six months but the boys have put in a lot of work.

“Matt O’Brien has been captain and I think I’ll have to give the cup to him, he’s managed to get us this far and led us through all the rounds. It would be a bit unjust of me to come back at the final hurdle and lift it.

“He’s worked hard and led the squad for the last six months so I couldn’t take that away from him.”

When asked what he expected from Merthyr, he continued: “There’s no doubting Merthyr are a very strong team, and we know what they’ll bring.

“They’ll be a big, physical team and they’ve got talent all over the field from one to 15.

“It’s going to be a massive challenge but one we know we can take on.

“We might be the underdogs to everyone on the outside but inside the squad we know what we’re capable of.

“We’ve been up there and beaten them on their patch so we’ve got nothing to fear.”