Cross Keys' British and Irish Cup bid boosted by a dozen Dragons
CROSS Keys’ bid to become the first Welsh side to lift the British and Irish Cup has been given a big lift after the Newport Gwent Dragons agreed to make 12 players potentially available to them.
The names of the dozen full-time professionals who could be parachuted in from the region are not being officially announced yet.
But it is understood they will be made up of a collection of both seasoned as well as senior academy players who are already cutting their teeth in the Principality Premiership.
Keys got to the final of the competition last year but went down 31-12 away to Munster A in Cork, playing against the famous Irish province’s second string squad.
The balance will be more even this season if the semi-professionals at Pandy Park are backed up by Dragons players in a tournament that includes the full-timers of Munster, Leinster and Ulster.
Keys are representing the Gwent region after beating Newport at home before winning away at Bedwas in the play-off decider.
The competition has been streamlined for this campaign with just four Welsh teams – one from each region – competing as opposed to all 12 Principality Premiership sides taking part last season.
Keys kick off their campaign by entertaining Birmingham side Moseley on October 12 before travelling to London to take on Ealing the week after.
They are also in the same group as Leinster A who beat Newcastle 18-17 in this year's final.
The Pandy Park side are delighted with the influx of Dragons, the presence of which was agreed upon with Newport, Bedwas and the Welsh Rugby Union in that whoever was successful in the Gwent region play-offs would receive regional backing.
Keys secretary Chris Clarke said: “The progression of the tournament sees us all play a part in representing the region and it’s great that some up-and-coming players get the opportunity to play in a competition at a level above the Premiership.”
Keys head coach Greg Woods added: “They will be quality players and adding them to our squad gives us a real crack at the British and Irish Cup.”