Written by Gareth Joy

League rugby returns in the Vale

13th November 2021

The final step in the long-awaited return of grassroots rugby takes place this weekend.

Nearly two years since the last games were played before the onslaught of the pandemic, 276 Welsh clubs are poised to kick off the new National League campaign on Saturday.

The WRU setup - taking in all divisions, from the Championship to Division Three - also has a new sponsor. Admiral has signed a four-season deal to put its name to the 24 competitions across the country.

For the Vale's clubs, the new season actually got underway in August with a new look for the cup competitions.

The historic first game - before a bumper crowd at Cwrt-Y-Vil - saw Penarth run out 48-7 winners over Old Penarthians in a local WRU Bowl derby.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID has held back the start of the regular season, not to mention the end of the modified laws, with the exception of rolling substitutions.

Welsh Rugby Union

Geraint John, the WRU's community director, said: ''It has taken a huge, combined effort from the clubs and the WRU to get to this point and I know there is huge excitement and anticipation out there as everyone prepares to get stuck into the Admiral National league campaign.''

''Working together we have ‘warmed-up’ with the highly successful cup competitions and are now ready for the league programme.''

''As we emerged from the COVID lockdown restrictions the key thing was to ensure everyone engaging in Welsh rugby was going to be as safe as possible. That’s why we introduced some hybrid rules and encouraged clubs to adhere to governmental guidelines on hygiene and safety.''

''The response was superb, thoroughly professional and typical of the ‘can do’ attitude of our clubs. There will still be a sensible ‘Safety First’ policy regarding COVID protocols as we continue to move back to full normality and I’m certain there will be a continuation of the responsible attitude adopted by all clubs to date.''

There'll be no promotion or relegation this season, and matches will be played once on a home or away basis.

The league winners in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 will be entered into play-offs to determine national all-Wales champions.

In the East Central region, Dinas Powys and Barry are in Division One, with Cowbridge in Division Two and Penarth, Old Penarthians, Llantwit Major and Sully View split across three separate groups in Division Three.

Porthcawl - in the West Central region - ply their trade in Division Two.

OPENING DAY FIXTURES - Saturday 13th November 2021
Division One East Central
Dinas Powys v St Peters
Ynysybwl v Barry
Division Two East Central
Cowbridge v Llanishen
Division Two West Central
Maesteg Celtic v Porthcawl
Division Three East Central A
Penarth v Old Illtydians
Division Three East Central B
Llandaff v Old Penarthians
Llantwit Major v Llandaff North
Division Three East Central C
Cardiff Saracaens v Sully View

Fears that some clubs would be forced out of existence by the pandemic have failed to materialise - and the WRU believes that the game has emerged stronger because of closer ties with its members.

Geraint John added: ''We’ve had more contact, built up a greater understanding of each other’s needs and have grown closer as a result. Where clubs have identified problems and issues we have been able to respond and try to help them iron them out.''

''That is the approach we will be adopting throughout this and subsequent seasons.''

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