New season starts this weekend

Sunday 1st May

Total Rugby League Conference Premier Wales (kick-off 2.30pm)

Bridgend Blue Bulls v Cardiff Demons (Brewery Field)

Newport Titans v Valley Cougars (Pill Harriers RFC)

Swansea Valley Miners v Aberavon Fighting Irish (Ystalafera RFC)

The new domestic Rugby League season kicks off on Sunday. All seven Wales Conference clubs have been upgraded in status and will now be playing in the new Total Rugby League Conference Premier - a 25-team national league that is split into four regions throughout England and Wales.

The highlight of the first round is the game between Welsh Champions, Bridgend Blue Bulls and Cardiff Demons, last year?s Welsh and National Shield winners.

Bridgend are once again coached by former Welsh internationals, Kevin Ellis and Allan Bateman and despite a few of their star players not being able to appear against Cardiff, chairman Simon Green believes that they can still get off to a good start.

Green admits: "It's been a tough build-up to the new season. All of our players also play union at a high level in the Bridgend area so they've had commitments with those clubs as well as with us. It means we haven't had as many training sessions as we've really wanted. Four of our lads play for Bridgend Ravens and they've got matches on Saturday and Tuesday so it's unlikely they will appear for us on Sunday but I still think we can get off to a good start."

Cardiff, under new coach Anthony Loxton, have prepared well for the new season and have a number of new signings, including England A international, Darren White who signed from Telford Raiders during the off-season. He was man of the match AGAINST the Demons two weeks ago when he played for the RAF in their win over the Taff's Well-based club.

In the three matches that Bridgend and Cardiff have played in the past, the Blue Bulls that have come out on each occassion. Chairman Ian Golden believes that this weekend could change things commenting: "I don't think we'll ever have a better chance to beat Bridgend. The lads are fit, raring to go and we should have a strong team out. I'm pleased that we won two trophies last season but this year we're aiming to be Welsh Champions."

Newport Titans are strong favourites to win their first match at home to Valley Cougars. Newport?s Earl Palmer says that the team is in a quietly confident mood as they look forward to Sunday?s match.

Palmer commented: "We're really looking forward to getting underway. We've retained a number of players from last season and have been training well so we're expecting a good result."

Valley Cougars? coach, Mark Rowley commented: ?It will be hard for us for the first few matches. A few of our players turn out for Pontypridd RFC in the winter and they?ve just reached a cup final so they won?t be available until after that. The Newport match will be a chance for our youngsters to make a name for themselves and I know they?ll play out of their skins. We want to start the season with a win.?

Swansea Valley Miners, under new coach Dai Hawkins, a close season signing from Aberavon Fighting Irish, are very confident that they will do well in their first game at home to Aberavon on Sunday.

At the Conference launch last week, Miners' Paul Whapham commented: "Dai has strengthened the squad with a number of quality union players from the Swansea valley. We're hoping they manage to adapt to the League style and remain injury free. We're looking to push for a play-off place this year which isn't out of our capabilities."

Aberavon's Neil Davies is also hopeful of a good result but know that the first game will be difficult as they too have plenty of new signings.

Davies comments: "We may be a bit rusty to start off with as we need to mix in the new talent and get them familiar with the game. But saying that, we're confident that the changes we've made will hold good for the new season."

All matches kick-off at 2.30pm.