NEWPORT and Ebbw Vale will lock horns to kick off the Indigo Premiership with the play-offs and relegation back on the agenda.

The league was reduced to 11 games in 2021/22 due to the impact of coronavirus with cup winners Newport edged out in their bid for a double by Cardiff’s late charge to top spot.

In the coming season those rivals will be looking to finish in the top four to earn spots in the semi-finals, with the schedule returning to home and away matches.

The Gwent duo will clash on opening day with Newport, who are now based at Spytty Park with a couple of fixtures at Rodney Parade, having home advantage against the Steelmen on Saturday, September 3.

The return fixture at Eugene Cross Park will boost Ebbw’s coffers on Boxing Day.

“The derby games that will open the season will be a great start for the supporters. Then they will have the return legs to look forward to over Christmas,” said Premier Division Clubs and Ebbw Vale RFC chairman, Jon Jones.

“Everyone is delighted to see the return of the traditional league format after the disruption of COVID and the return of play-offs will add jeopardy and meaningful fixtures right to the end of the season.

“There have been some notable signings at many clubs that will add real quality to the league.

“Welsh internationals and seasoned regional players will be joined by a raft of top-quality signings from the Admiral Leagues with many young and talented players following the proven pathway that the Premiership provides.”

The Welsh Rugby Union have pledged more financial investment to help with medical costs while there will be prize money for the teams that reach the play-off final.

“Last season went right down to the wire and the 2022-23 campaign looks like being even more exciting with the return of a play-off system to determine the champions,” said WRU community rugby director, Geraint John.

“There was an appetite from the clubs, players, fans and broadcasters to see the play-offs return and there will be prize money for the two finalists as well as a home venue advantage for the top ranked team. The semi-finals will also be played at club grounds.

“The viewing figures for the Thursday night live and weekend matches grew over the course of the season and there was a general feel-good factor about the Premiership as Newport won the cup and Cardiff took the league title.

“Even more importantly, the tournament as a whole was invaluable in giving the young, aspiring professionals at many of the regions a proper baptism in senior rugby."

Gwent fixtures

03/09/2022: Newport v Ebbw Vale

10/09/2022: Ebbw Vale v Llanelli, RGC1404 v Newport

24/09/2022: Ebbw Vale v RGC1404, Newport v Cardiff

01/10/2022: Cardiff v Ebbw Vale, Llandovery v Newport

08/10/2022: Ebbw Vale v Llandovery, Newport v Bridgend

15/10/2022: Bridgend v Ebbw Vale, Swansea v Newport

29/10/2022: Ebbw Vale v Swansea, Newport v Aberavon

12/11/2022: Aberavon v Ebbw Vale, Carmarthen Quins v Newport

18/11/2022: Ebbw Vale v Carmarthen Quins, Newport v Pontypridd

10/12/2022: Merthyr v Newport, Pontypridd v Ebbw Vale

17/12/2022: Ebbw Vale v Merthyr, Newport v Llanelli

26/12/2022: Ebbw Vale v Newport

07/01/2023: Llanelli v Ebbw Vale, Newport v RGC1404

14/01/2023: Cardiff v Newport, RGC1404 v Ebbw Vale

21/01/2023: Ebbw Vale v Cardiff, Newport v Llandovery

28/01/2023: Bridgend v Newport, Llandovery v Ebbw Vale

18/02/2023: Ebbw Vale v Bridgend, Newport v Swansea

04/03/2023: Aberavon v Newport, Swansea v Ebbw Vale

25/03/2023: Ebbw Vale v Aberavon, Newport v Carmarthen Quins

01/04/2023: Carmarthen Quins v Ebbw Vale, Pontypridd v Newport

08/04/2023: Ebbw Vale v Pontypridd, Newport v Merthyr

15/04/2022: Llanelli v Newport, Merthyr v Ebbw Vale