DREAMS of Principality Stadium will be dashed in just the second week of the season when teams start their Specsavers National Cup campaigns.

The competition gets off to an early start when Newport host Carmarthen Quins at Rodney Parade this evening (kick-off 8pm) in the first of 13 round one fixtures.

The Black and Ambers enjoyed a terrific run to the final in 2018 only to be hammered 41-7 by Merthyr on the big stage, so returning to the capital is a major aim.

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"It's a strange one playing a cup game two weeks into the season but it's a challenge that we will embrace," said captain Rhys Jenkins, who won a fitness race to be on the bench at Principality Stadium.

"Carmarthen Quins are not the easiest of teams to face in the first round, like us they like to play attacking rugby. They didn't play last week so we don't know if they will be fresh or undercooked.

"The cup is definitely a big target for us this year and we all want to repeat the run we had two years ago."

The Quins and Llandovery agreed to postpone their opening weekend fixture because of the Scarlets' Celtic Cup commitments but derby day went ahead in Ebbw Vale.

Newport travelled to Eugene Cross Park and got their season off to a fine start thanks to scores by speedsters Dai Richards (2) and Ryan Gardner plus a penalty try, with injury time Ebbw efforts reducing the gap from 29-13 to 29-23 for a consolation bonus.

"It was a great win, it was tough to have a big Gwent derby first up so we were more than happy to take our five points," said Jenkins.

"We knew that Ebbw would come flying out of the blocks in the first half but we did well to go in with a 22-6 lead and then our defence was up to the task in the second half.

"That's something that we are looking to improve this season because we score a lot of tries but concede too many, although that's sometimes from overplaying rather than just down to our defence."

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Pontypool bid to add Swansea to their list of Premiership scalps when they entertain the Whites tomorrow.

Pooler, who were edged out by Merthyr in the semi-finals last season, have beaten Llanelli, Cardiff, Carmarthen Quins, Cross Keys and Bridgend in recent times.

Their main focus is securing top spot for a fourth year on the spin, which this time carries the prize of automatic promotion, but a cup run remains important.

Head coach Leighton Jones said: "Facing Premiership sides has been something that the boys have enjoyed and we are looking forward to this.

"The league is the priority but we will put a strong side out and we have a big squad, so if we can have another cup run then the games would be good for keeping the boys fresh and everyone on their toes."

The Championship champions started the defence of their title with a seven-try 47-12 home win against Beddau while the Whites thrashed Llanelli 33-5.

"Plenty of it was pleasing, although we were a little bit rusty and left a few tries out there," said Jones.

"It's been good to have some work-ons to show to the boys and we will need to sharpen up defensively against Swansea and get our game flowing, because we have had a look at their game and they looked a dangerous side."

Ebbw Vale need only to cast their minds back to 2014 to know that it is unlikely to be a routine afternoon against Narberth.

The Steelmen have home advantage this time but five years ago their were denied a perfect Championship season when beaten by the Otters at the Lewis Lloyd Ground.

Coach Lewis Roberts is holding the reins while boss Greg Woods is in Japan for a week of work with the Welsh Rugby Union after a two-year legacy programme in Kitakyushu.

"We are fully aware of the challenge that Narberth will bring, we will give them the respect that they deserve," said Roberts.

"In our games against them over the years they have been a physical team that prides themselves on being big up front.

"The seniors boys have been making sure that everybody knows what is coming and if we look after ourselves, and do everything properly then the performance and result should follow.

"We want to improve on last week when we were disappointed with many aspects against Newport after the hard work of pre-season.

"Newport were clinical and brought the heat in the contact area. We didn't deal with that so need to be better in that department so that we can right some wrongs."

It's been a summer of change for Cross Keys after their relegation from the Premiership and life in the Championship started with a heavy 41-9 loss at Bedwas.

Morgan Stoddart's side face another of their tier two rivals this weekend, albeit in knockout rugby, host Glamorgan Wanderers.

The men from Ely won Division One East Central last season and head to Pandy Park on the back of an away win at Maesteg Quins.

Bargoed, who had to settle for a draw at Cardiff Met last week, make a swift return to a Premiership ground after last season's relegation.

The Bulls travel to Aberavon and will aim to repeat their January, 2012 cup upset of the Wizards when they triumphed 17-15 at the Talbot Athletic Ground.

Last season Bargoed enjoyed a 38-18 win when they hosted Aberavon in October but the tables were turned in March when the Wizards won 25-7.

Bedwas aim to build on their triumph against Keys when they head west to face Championship rivals Tata Steel, who lost to Narberth on opening weekend.

Steff Sankala's side beat Rhydyfelin and Cardiff Met in the cup last season before losing at eventual winners Cardiff in the quarter-finals.

Arguably the tie of the opening round takes place at the Wern when Merthyr entertain fierce rivals Pontypridd, while holders Cardiff face a tough trip to Colwyn Bay to face RGC.

Fixtures (Saturday, 2.30pm unless stated): Newport v Carmarthen Quins (tonight, 8pm), Aberavon v Bargoed, Beddau v Bridgend, Cardiff Met v Ystrad Rhondda, Cross Keys v Glamorgan Wanderers, Ebbw Vale v Narberth, Llandovery v Ystalyfera, Maesteg Quins v Llanelli, Merthyr v Pontypridd (Saturday, 5.15pm), Neath v Trebanos, Pontypool v Swansea, RGC v Cardiff, Tata Steel v Bedwas.