CROSS Keys and Bedwas will prepare for the new season with a friendly encounter at Newport Gwent Dragons' new training base, writes Chris Kirwan.

The Principality Premiership pair are among the clubs that will use the £6.8million Caerphilly County Borough Centre for Sporting Excellence.

They will play a conditioning game on the 3G pitch in Ystrad Mynach on Thursday, August 21 and it will be open to the public as long as the grandstand gets a safety certificate in time.

Bedwas also take on Bargoed at Bridge Field on Saturday, August 9 and will travel to Henley, who they hosted last summer, the following Saturday.

But Keys are hoping to find some opposition for a tune-up after suffering a pair of last-gasp withdrawals. The friendlies were in the diary before last season was over but the teams, one Welsh and one English, have pulled out.

That leaves them with gaps to fill ahead of their August 30 British and Irish Cup qualifier against Ebbw Vale at Pandy Park.

The Premiership gets under way on Saturday, September 13 and the fixtures are going to be released by the Welsh Rugby Union on Monday.

- Newport Gwent Dragons will play on another artificial surface next season after Rugby Challenge Cup opponents Newcastle confirmed they are laying a 3G pitch.

Director of rugby Dean Richards hopes that the development at Kingston Park will enable his side to improve on their 2013/14 tally of just 23 tries.

"The new surface will undoubtedly produce a more free-flowing entertaining style," said the former England number eight.

Rodney Parade has its own problems courtesy of three teams playing there but the Falcons' surface didn't impress the Dragons when they headed to the North East for an LV= Cup game last January.

One player, a seasoned campaigner, complained that the soggy, heavy pitch was the worst that he had played on.

- The Ospreys have signed former Wales scrum-half Martin Roberts from Bath on a two-year deal.

The 28-year-old, who has been capped three times, came through the region's ranks before joining the Scarlets in 2008.

He went on to play in England for Northampton and at the Rec but will return to battle for starts with Rhys Webb and Tom Habberfield.