A BIG afternoon awaits some of Gwent’s Premiership and Championship clubs today, but for very different reasons.

We may not have reached the halfway point of the campaign just yet, however, things are certainly beginning to take shape in the battle against relegation and quest for promotion.

In the case of the latter, Pontypool, Bargoed and Bedwas appear to be in a three-horse race to claim the Championship title and a place in next season’s Premiership.

Today sees two of those teams, leaders Pooler and second-placed Bargoed, clash at Pontypool Park (kick-off 2.30pm).

And although the outcome won’t determine the destination of the league trophy, it could well give the victors a useful psychological boost for the remainder of the campaign.

Pooler, chasing a fourth successive crown, have a perfect record of 50 points from 10 fixtures so far, but Bargoed are unbeaten too, with 42 points after nine games.

None of the top three have faced each other since the new term started back in August, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the toughest match for each side to date.

Pontypool defence coach Andrew Quick is very much of the opinion that today’s showdown, while huge for both clubs, isn’t the be-all and end-all in the title race.

“To win the league, as we’ve been lucky enough to do so the last couple of years, we know that although there’s a big emphasis on these games to come out on top, the challenge for us is to win week in, week out,” he said.

“And if we continue to do that on a weekly basis and put in good performances, getting four and five points, that is where the league is ultimately won.

“When we travel away as well, going to some hostile places, turning in performances week in, week out, that is where the league is won, not necessarily on the back of one or two big games.

“It’s over the duration of the whole season.”

The clubs last met in the 2015-16 season when they fought out a 19-19 draw at Pontypool Park, while Bargoed ran out 17-8 winners in the return fixture.

Pooler head coach Leighton Jones has made three changes to his starting XV after last weekend’s 24-0 defeat of Glamorgan Wanderers.

There is a new centre pairing as Kieran Meek partners Amosa Nove, with Joel Mahoney and Clayton Gullis the men to miss out.

Nove’s place on the wing is taken by Pat Lewis and Scott Matthews replaces Michael Herbert on the blindside.

Bedwas, like Pooler, also boast a 100% record, and they have two games in hand on the leaders.

Glamorgan Wanderers, led by former Bedwas forwards coach Martyn Fowler, are the visitors to Bridge Field today (kick-off 2.30pm).

Injuries mean James Hallett, Gareth Allen, Jonathan Armitage and Dion McIntosh all miss out for the hosts.

Wing George Collins features again on permit from Pontypool United, while number eight Nathan Hudd, recovering from injury, makes a welcome return to Bedwas on permit from Premiership leaders Cardiff.

Callum Rowlands comes into the full-back berth with Bradley Williams at fly-half in partnership with Owain Keane.

Up front, Tom Devine is at loosehead and Dale Rogers starts at hooker for the first time this season.

Scrum-half Rory Harries begins his comeback from injury with a place on the bench.

Cross Keys soared up to 10th after a morale-boosting 29-15 victory over Trebanos, and Morgan Stoddart’s men can make it back-to-back wins at bottom side Ystrad Rhondda (kick-off 2.30pm).

Their three changes come in the pack with captain Richard Cornock moving across the front row to loosehead in place of Owen Peddle, Scott Hoskins taking Cornock’s place at tighthead.

Connah Vaughan returns to start in place of Zac Hewlett at hooker, while Gwion Jones moves from the back row to the second row to replace Callum Hague.

Dragons academy prospect Garin Price comes in at number eight for his first appearance of the season.

In the Premiership, Ebbw Vale will not want to stay around the lower reaches of the table much longer.

And they have a great opportunity to clinch a much-needed win today with a home game against basement boys Bridgend (kick-off 2.30pm).

Head coach Greg Woods makes two changes up front and three behind from the side that started the loss to Swansea last Saturday.

Cameron Regan replaces Rhys Francis on the blindside, while scrum-half Dan Babos, wing Ewan Rosser and inside centre Aneurin Owen are in for Matthew Flanagan, Dafydd Thomas and Ethan Phillips respectively.

Finally, Newport travel to Carmarthen Quins with hopes of ending a three-game losing streak (kick-off 2.30pm).

Bedwas (home to Glamorgan Wanderers): C Rowlands; G Collins, M Williams, G Callow, J Rees; B Williams, O Keane; T Devine, D Rogers (capt), R Hutcherson, C Hudd, M Bovington, J Richards, O Jones, N Hudd. Reps: J Tucker, K Williams, L Davies, R Harries, L Bowden.

Cross Keys (at Ystrad Rhondda): L O’Brien; A Tetley, W Cunliffe, C Nicholls, A Upton; K Hill, Z Bartlett; R Cornock (capt), C Vaughan, S Hoskins, S Andrews, G Jones, C Johnsey, J Thomas, G Price. Reps: Z Hewlett, J Rogers, J Wall, S Gibson, C Povey.

Ebbw Vale (home to Bridgend): D Haymond; P King, D Franchi, A Owen, E Rosser; D Langdon, D Babos; R Jones, J Franchi, C Coleman, D Hill, A Sweet (capt), C Regan, D Rubasniak, L Young. Reps: W Griffiths, L Garrett, R Sevenoaks, M Ayling, B Sier, M Flanagan, L Williams, E Phillips.

Pontypool (home to Bargoed): G Walsh; P Lewis, A Nove, K Meek, L Lewis; R Powell, O Leonard, A Coundley, D Hughes, C Price, D Hodge, R Clarke, S Matthews, A Stratton, I Jones. Reps: S Evans, L Ball, M Herbert, A Quick, J Mahoney.

Fixtures – Premiership: Cardiff v Merthyr, Carmarthen Quins v Newport, Ebbw Vale v Bridgend, RGC v Aberavon, Swansea v Pontypridd.

Championship: Bedwas v Glamorgan Wanderers, Cardiff Met v Maesteg Quins, Narberth v Ystalyfera, Neath v Tata Steel, Pontypool v Bargoed, Trebanos v Beddau, Ystrad Rhondda v Cross Keys.