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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Pontypridd back youth
Michael Owen
Backrow Michael Owen is a rising talent for Pontypridd
Lacking a wealthy backer, unlike many of their Welsh-Scottish League rivals, Pontypridd felt the strain last season as injuries exposed the lack of depth in the squad and they finished ninth.

However, their excellent youth development scheme promises to keep Pontypridd in talented raw material and players such as Michael Owen and Robert Sidoli will ensure the club remains up with the pace.

Coach Richie Collins couldn't prevent Neath enticing fly-half Lee Jarvis away from Sardis Road, but his replacement, Ceri Sweeney, seized his chance with gusto at the end of last season.

The capture of Alex Lawson from Llanelli provides options at No 10 and experience. Australian-born Lawson has also seen service with Newport and Swansea, while he spent a short time last season with English club Harlequins.

  Season tips:
Celtic League prediction: Pool stage
Welsh-Scottish League prediction: 8th
Star player: Michael Owen

Pontypridd have beefed up their squad with the capture of prop Duncan Bell from Sale, lock Nick Kelly from Cross Keys, scrum-half Gareth Baber from Bristol and centre Sean James from Carmarthen Quins.

Another front-row addition is the experienced Mefin Davies from Neath, who will compete for the No 2 shirt with Tongan international Feao Vunipola and youngster Matthew Rees.

Pontypridd must face Bexiers, Overmach Parma and Leeds Tykes in the European Shield.

The draw brings Collins into confrontation with his old Wales backrow pal Phil Davies, who coached Leeds to Zurich Premiership promotion last season.

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