PONTYPOOL director of rugby Alun Carter has expressed his delight at retaining the core of the squad ahead of the coming Swalec Championship season, writes Chris Kirwan.

Pooler have agreed fresh deals with 23 players who helped them climb from a 12th-place finish in 2012/13 to fourth last term, just three points back on runners-up Cardiff Met.

The title is up for grabs now that four-times champions Ebbw Vale have finally been rewarded with promotion back to the Principality Premiership.

And Pooler hope that centre Joe Blackmore, wing Mike Burke, back row Luke Dyckhoff, hooker James Edwards, back row Elliott Goodman, full-back Clayton Gullis, scrum-half Josh Guy, centre Dan Haile, wing Josh Hurley, wing Chris Laing, fly-half Sam Mills, wing Ashley Norton, flanker Tom Organ, hooker Ben Parry, prop Josh Powell, prop Matthew Prosser, scrum-half Aaron Quick, back row Ben Sparks, lock Matthew Thomas, back row Ryan Thomas, centre Marc Thorley, prop Dan Walker and back row Jordan Williams can help ensure another successful season.

Carter, who has taken over the reins following the departure of head coach Mike Hook to Bridgend, said: "Having made a strong finish to last season it is important that those players who contributed to this winning environment have committed to Pontypool RFC for the new season.

"We have re-signed the majority of last season's playing squad and will look to compliment this with some signings during the summer months.

"It is also exciting to have the quality of Leighton Jones, who made a big impact on the forward play last season, back with us. Together with Stuart Lawrence, an experienced coach and former Pooler player, the team will be in no doubt as to who and what they are representing.

"Simon Church, our strength and conditioning coach, is already having an impact on those re-signed players who have been busy completing his off-season programme, and everybody cannot wait to get back into training to continue the positive momentum from last season."

Full-back/wing Steve Taylor has left for Premiership outfit Bedwas while prop Kieran Brown and wing Trevor James will play for Championship rivals Bargoed and flanker Mike Barber has joined Clifton.