Newport Gwent Dragons will be looking to get their Celtic League campaign and hopes of qualifying for Europe back on track on Friday night when they face Glasgow at Rodney Parade, kick off 7.10pm.
The Dragons have received a massive boost with the news that Welsh Internationals Hal Luscombe and Steve Jones have recovered from their chest and shoulder injuries respectively and are part of the starting XV. Hal Luscombe has missed the last three Dragons games against Connacht, the Blues and Scarlets while hooker Steve Jones missed the two Welsh derby clashes. Also returning is Craig Warlow who missed the Scarlets game.
The Dragons match on Friday is a crucial one for the Region as they aim to secure as a minimum a place in the Heineken Cup play-off. As the table stands at present they would be certain of that as they are in ninth place above Connacht and Glasgow, however, they need to win against Glasgow to maintain this position in the table.
“Given our current League position we need to win on Friday night,” commented Head Coach Paul Turner. “No-one in the Dragons camp is happy with recent performances and results and Friday’s game is a crucial one for us. We have to finish above an Irish and Scottish team if we want to reach the play off’s for Europe which is what we are aiming to do. We have selected a strong side for the match against Glasgow which states our intentions of going out there and winning the game and clinching four crucial points. Our home form this season has been excellent, apart from a blip against the Blues and we aim to restore the Rodney Parade fortress.”
Paul Turner has rung the changes for Friday night’s game with Gareth Wyatt coming in at fullback, Gareth Chapman on the wing, Ceri Sweeney is back at inside centre with Nathan Brew switching to the wing. The Dragons also welcome Craig Warlow back at fly-half after recovering from a shoulder injury and he will form the halfback partnership with scrum half Gareth Baber.
Nathan Brew makes his ninth start for the Region this season after recovering from a groin injury and a broken thumb. He has been in impressive form for the Region and commenting on the match against Glasgow he said, “Friday night’s game will be a huge challenge for us with both sides desperate to clinch the play off spot for next season’s Heineken Cup. The Heineken Cup is a massive tournament to be involved in and we want to be a part of that next year. Results recently haven’t gone our way and it is down to us as a squad to ensure results on the field do go our way now and until the end of the season. Glasgow are a tough side to break down and to have beaten Munster at Thomond Park as they did a few weeks ago is no mean achievement so we are wary of the threat they will pose. However, we are focused on what we have to achieve and will be going all out to secure a win on Friday.”
In the forwards an all-change front row is named with Adam Black and Rhys Thomas at loose head and tight head prop respectively with Jones at hooker. Ian Gough and Luke Charteris form the second row partnership while captain Jason Forster is in the back row along with Jamie Ringer and Michael Owen.
Other good news for The Dragons is that all their Academy members have signed contracts with the Academy meaning all 15 members will remain with the Region. Seven of the Dragons Academy have just returned from Dubai and the U19 World Cup and these seven members (Ashley Smith, Jamie Corsi, James Lewis, Rob Lewis, Lewis Evans, Jimmy Norris and Gareth Maule) will remain part of the Dragons set up for the next two years.
“The signing of the Academy members for the next two years endorses the Region’s commitment to investing and developing young talent,” commented Rugby Manager Jim McCreedy. “We have always been committed to developing players and have done that this season with a number of youngsters making their debuts with the senior side. We have a number of talented youngsters in our set up shown with seven members making the trip to Dubai for the U19 World Cup and it is pleasing to see the Academy structure bearing fruit.”
The replacements bench for Friday night’s game has yet to be finalised and will be confirmed after Thursday’s captains run. D
ragons Starting XV
Gareth Wyatt, Gareth Chapman, Hal Luscombe, Ceri Sweeney, Nathan Brew, Craig Warlow, Gareth Baber, Adam Black, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Jamie Ringer, Jason Forster (c), Michael Owen.
Andrew Brown, David Maddocks, Gethin Robinson, Peter Sidoli, Andrew Hall, Rhys Oakley, Ben Breeze, Jon Bryant, James Ireland, Aled Thomas.