English trio await Gwent side in BIC

GWENT'S representative in the British and Irish Cup will enjoy group stage trips on the motorway rather than racking up some air miles after being drawn with a trio of English opponents, writes Chris Kirwan.

Cross Keys, Bedwas, Newport and Ebbw Vale will battle for a spot in the cross-border competition before the start of the Principality Premiership season.

The prize is home and away encounters with English Championship sides Cornish Pirates, Doncaster Knights and Bedford Blues in Pool Four.

The trio all have links to Gwent; the Pirates feature former Dragons Tom Riley and Matt Evans in their squad, fly-half Steffan Jones has made the move from Rodney Parade to Bedford while Trinant's Ross Davies plies his trade for the Knights.

There may not be the glamour trips of Pool Five - the Scarlets representative will fly to Dublin and Jersey - but it does provide a real chance of qualification in what promises to be a tight group.

Either Pontypridd or Cardiff will enjoy the plum tie against big-spending Bristol as well as clashes with London Scottish and Connacht.

The Ospreys area – Aberavon/ Bridgend/ Neath – take on Rotherham, Leeds and Ulster while the Scarlets representative – Llanelli/Llandovery/Carmarthen Quins – has plenty of travelling after being drawn against holders Leinster A, Plymouth Albion and Jersey.

The Scottish clubs have withdrawn from the tournament as it skews their domestic league, leaving those that don't qualify with large periods of inactivity.

The Welsh clubs will be keen to avoid that fate by being successful in the play-offs on Saturday, August 30 and Saturday, September 6.

Pool 1: London Scottish, Cardiff Blues club (Cardiff or Pontypridd), Bristol Rugby, Connacht

Pool 2: Rotherham Titans, Leeds Carnegie, Ulster Ravens, Ospreys club (Aberavon/ Bridgend/ Neath)

Pool 3: Worcester Warriors, Nottingham Rugby, Moseley, Munster A

Pool 4: Newport Gwent Dragons club (Bedwas / Cross Keys/ Ebbw Vale / Newport), Cornish Pirates, Doncaster Knights, Bedford Blues

Pool 5: Leinster A, Plymouth Albion, Scarlets club (Carmarthen Quins / Llandovery / Llanelli), Jersey RFC

Dragons club's fixtures

Round 1 – Doncaster home (October 10/11/12)

Round 2 – Bedford away (October 17/18/19)

Round 3 – Cornish Pirates away (October 24/25/26)

Round 4 – Cornish Pirates home (November 28/29/30)

Round 5 – Bedford home (December 5/6/7)

Round 6 – Doncaster away (December 12/13/14)

Quarter-finals: January 23/24/25

Semi-finals: March 13/14/15

Final: April 3/4/5

Playoffs: Cross Keys v Ebbw Vale, Bedwas v Newport (winners to meet at the winner of Keys v Ebbw)

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