Rugby Union: Ponty Threat to Ravens' Record; Pontypridd Team Up with Bridgend for Next Year's European Campaign but There'll Be No Love Lost at the House of Pain
Byline: Simon Thomas # Rugby Correspondent
FROM next season, Lynn Howells will be working hand-inhand with Allan Lewis in a common cause.
But this evening at Sardis Road he will be out to slow down his good friend's march towards the Premiership title.
Lewis' Bridgend are two points clear at the top of the table, with games in hand on their pursuers, having won all nine league games so far this season.
But now they face one of their toughest tests yet in the shape of a trip to Pontypridd's House of Pain, an encounter that has an added resonance with the two clubs set to join forces next season.
And at the helm of that regional entity will be head coach Howells and his assistant Lewis.
So has it been hard to put friendship to one side in the build-up to this evening's game?
``Not really,'' said Howells. ``We never talk to each other the week before a game and that's not changed this week.
``We have both got a job to do with our respective teams. They are going for the title and we are trying to get a bit of success in the league to finish the season on a high.''
Future regional colleagues will also lock horns out on the field, but Howells believes they will take the somewhat unusual situation in their stride.
``I just think players get on with the game,'' he said.
``It might feel a bit strange for them in the changing room beforehand, but once they are over that white line they will forget that.''
What has had a real impact on both camps, however, is the bad news a number of players have received this week in terms of their future employment.
About 20 or so from the two clubs have been told there will be no regional contracts for them next season.
``It has been a hard week in both camps,'' said Howells. ``I really felt it on Tuesday after our players were told and it was certainly there again for the team run yesterday.
``It's always hard giving players unwelcome news. It's very difficult for them because they don't know where they are go-ing to be playing next season or if they are still going to have a living from the game.
``If there's one thing to come out of all this it's that players have got to get qualifications or job skills outside rugby to fall back on. You can't just rely on the game anymore. …