CROSS Keys chief Morgan Stoddart reckons his side’s exit from the WRU National Cup at the hands of Gwent rivals Pontypool could be a blessing in disguise.

Stoddart’s troops suffered a 12-9 defeat to Pooler in an absorbing Pandy Park encounter last weekend – the visitors’ reward was a home tie against Bridgend in the last eight.

The old cliché of now being able to concentrate on the league is very much the case for Keys, who are battling to avoid relegation from the Principality Premiership to the Championship.

Keys are currently in a position which would save them from the drop, although Bridgend, the side immediately below them in the table, have a game in hand.

A win against Swansea at St Helen’s today (kick-off 2.30pm) could see the four-point gap between Keys and the Ravens double – Bridgend will be clear second favourites at Pontypridd.

Llanelli, the next side down, can only watch the results come in as their encounter with Craig Warlow’s Newport at Rodney Parade is off because of the snow.

Reflecting on that cup loss, Stoddart said: “It was disappointing to lose.

“It was a close game and always going to be like that with the conditions.

“But in the grand scheme of things, it won’t hurt us too much because it means we won’t have any extra games on top of our league fixtures.

“It’s probably more beneficial as we are in a fight with others to stay in the Premiership.

“We wanted to beat Pontypool, of course we did, but we could do without having any more games to take away our focus from the league.”

On his side’s form since the turn of the year, he added: “We have picked up after a bad run over Christmas when we lost to Carmarthen Quins and Newport.

“We have improved but we haven’t been able to play the type of rugby we are capable of due to the conditions in the past two or three games.

“We’re looking forward to going to Swansea because of the big pitch and good playing surface at St Helen’s.”

The wintry weather also led to the postponement of Ebbw Vale’s game against Neath at Eugene Cross Park and Bargoed’s home clash with Cardiff.

In West Wales, Bedwas, like Keys, will be looking to steal a march on the relegation-threatened clubs around them who aren’t in action when they go to Carmarthen Quins (kick-off 2.30pm).

New signing from Merthyr, tighthead Rhys James, goes straight into Stefan Sankala’s starting XV, joining Brynley Toms and skipper Alun Rees in the front row.

Gareth Allen and Craig Hudd complete the front five with James Richards, Nathan Hudd and Dale Rogers forming the back row.

Behind the scrum, Luke Crane comes in at scrum-half, Adam Williams moves across to the left wing with Lewis Bowden and Connor Williams at inside and outside centre respectively.

Evan Lloyd continues at fly-half with Jordan Rees and the recalled Joe Scrivens completing the back three.

Bedwas (at Carmarthen Quins): J Scrivens; J Rees, C Edwards, L Bowden, A Williams; E Lloyd, L Crane; B Toms, A Rees (capt), R James, G Allen, C Hudd, J Richards, N Hudd, D Rogers. Reps: S Cochrane, M Dacey, R Hutcherson, J Davies, B Hill, R Harries, J Chilcott, K Teear-Bourge.

Cross Keys (at Swansea): TBC.