BOSS Leighton Jones predicts a fierce battle for promotion when Pontypool return to their Championship title push.

The head coach has been given a boost by his management team – backs coach Tom Hancock, defence coach Andrew Quick, head of performance Rhys Dyer and team manager Gareth Rusby-Davies – committing for the 2021/22 campaign.

That continuity will help Pooler push for the top spot when the league returns after they had been setting the pace when the coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension and then cancellation of the 2019/20 season.

Jones is ready to spearhead another promotion bid after recovering from a health scare suffered before rugby was put on hold.

"Having a settled staff is important to how we operate as a club," said the former front rower, who has been in charge since 2016.

"It makes the implementation and continuation of various systems a lot easier and ensures the squad aren't regularly having to adapt to potentially different approaches.

"Despite how last season finished, improvement in certain areas was noticeable and we will look to build on that moving into next season.

Free Press Series:

"I thought the Championship moved up a level last season. The added competition provided by Bargoed and Bedwas, in particular, really improved the league as a spectacle.

"When we are able to resume, they will be strong promotion contenders once again and I wouldn't rule out Neath, who have spent the last 12 months rebuilding on and off the field.

"I've said it before, but the retention of our coaching and management team is an endorsement of the environment that exists at Pontypool Park.

"Alongside our successes, there will always be areas where we can further improve, but as a group we continue to believe in what we are trying to achieve."

Pooler are unbeaten in their last 63 league games and on Monday announced that 24 members of their squad will be returning for the new campaign.

Lewis Ball, Sam Cochrane, Aaron Coundley, Luke Fleming-Jones, Curtis Gregory, Michael Herbert, Corey Hewlett, Darren Hughes, Ieuan Jones, Scott Matthews, Craig Price, Adam Stratton, Alex Watkins and Jordan Williams will be part of the Pooler pack.

They will be charged with providing plenty of ball for Marcus Jones, Owain Leonard, Lloyd Lewis, Pat Lewis, Joel Mahoney, Kieran Meek, Amose Nove, Aaron Quick, Duan Thomas and Geraint Walsh.

Pontypool opted out of the Championship Cup, leading to a three-team Gwent group containing Bargoed, Bedwas and Cross Keys.

It's the Bulls that are setting the pace after backing up their opening weekend win over Bedwas with a 33-13 triumph at Pandy Park.

Wing Steff Thomas, centre Darren Humphries and hooker Wade Langley went over for Bargoed in the first half before Keys old boys Steffan Jones and James Leadbeater scored in the second half.

Curtis Povey kicked a pair of penalties for the hosts in the first half and they showed spirit at the death when centre Adam Tetley crossed.

Bedwas have announced a home friendly with Trebanos on Saturday ahead of their home clash with Keys on Saturday, August 28.