Skipper sure Dragons will bounce back in Parma
CAPTAIN Lewis Evans is grateful that Newport Gwent Dragons get the chance to respond to a humiliating defeat when they take on Zebre tomorrow afternoon.
This time last week the Dragons skipper was still in shock following his side’s 60-3 Friday night disaster against Glasgow at Rodney Parade.
Evans dragged himself out of the house to watch his friends play for Newport High School Old Boys in a Division Three East away game.
He found himself sympathising with their opponents Croesyceiliog, who were beaten 57-12 at Woodland Road.
The Cockerels are not in action this weekend, leaving them stewing on a heavy defeat on their own patch.
The Dragons get a chance to react when they take on the RaboDirect Pro12 basement dwellers in Parma.
Zebre have lost every game, all 21 of them, since their inception last summer.
They have gone close a couple of times; edged out 22-13 at Parc y Scarlets, denied by a late Ulster score in a 27-25 reverse, Glasgow sneaked a 22-19 win, Cardiff Blues dug in for a 14-7 win while the Ospreys clung on for a nervy 16-15 success in Swansea.
Zebre will be determined to turn over the side closest to them in the table and a team that they deem as there for the taking.
For Evans, it’s a case of the old rugby adage of concentration on themselves rather than the opponent.
“We should be going there relishing the opportunity to get a win rather than being worried about another loss,” said the flanker.
“Zebre have progressed through the year and are going to be a big threat at home, where they have pushed some good sides.
“We have got to do a job against their strong pack but we can’t talk too much about them; after last week it has to be all about us.
“Trying to stay positive has been difficult after Glasgow but if we don’t go to Parma confident of victory then we have already lost.
“We folded last week and need to be tighter as a team. At this level you cannot just brush a defeat like that under the carpet, you have to take criticism on the chin.
“If you don’t feel embarrassed or that you have let the team down then you shouldn’t be a professional.
“The analysis on them has been pretty simple, we have identified a few threats but we’ve just got to go down there and play and hopefully display the old Dragons philosophy with a dogged attitude.
“We’ve trained hard and hopefully there will be a good response.”
Dragons head coach Darren Edwards makes five changes with both wings against Glasgow paying the price for shaky displays, Tom Prydie and Will Harries replaced by Adam Hughes and Hallam Amos.
Experience is the order of the day at scrum-half and inside centre where Ashley Smith and Wayne Evans start while Phil Price is preferred to Owen Evans at loosehead.
Experienced lock Rob Sidoli, who has been out since the win against the Ospreys at the end of last month, makes a welcome return to the Dragons bench.
Five of Zebre’s squad are in the Italian matchday 23 that goes up against Wales this afternoon.
Zebre: A Benettin, L Sarto, S Pace, M Pratichetti, S Sinoti, A Chiesa, A Chillon, M Aguero, C Festuccia, L Redolfini, M Van Vuren, M Bortolami (captain), F Ferrarini, J Sole, A Van Schalkwyk. Replacements: A Manici, A De Marchi, C Fazzari, E Caffini, F Cristiano, G Palazzani, P Buso, A Bacchetti.
Dragons: D Evans, A Hughes, P Leach, A Smith, H Amos, S Jones, W Evans, P Price, H Gustafson, N Buck, I Nimmo, A Jones, L Evans (captain), N Cudd, I Jones. Replacements: S Parry, O Evans, D Way, R Sidoli, J Groves, J Evans, T Prydie, J Dixon.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)