Dragons players sent out to get a taste of friendly action
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have moved to fill a gap in their pre-season schedule by sending 13 players out to feature for Premiership clubs.
The Rodney Parade region will play just one friendly – a home clash with Bath on Friday – before they start their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign against Ulster on September 6.
They had hoped to travel to France to take on Perpignan but the fixture fell by the wayside, leaving them fearing players would be undercooked before the big kick-off.
"One pre-season game is not ideal," admitted director of rugby Lyn Jones. "It's quite difficult to fill a friendly spot at this time of year and it's far from perfect, but one is better than nothing.
"We just need to step up our contact in training somewhat, and come the first game of the season we may not be firing on all cylinders."
However, a number of players will get a first taste of game time this afternoon.
Wales wing Will Harries will feature for Newport in their away fixture at Moseley along with prop Nathan Williams, scrum-half Jonathan Evans and fly-half/centre Lewis Robling.
Cross Keys take on Coventry at Pandy Park and have handed starts to loosehead prop Aaron Coundley and fly-half Steffan Jones.
And Bedwas, who host Henley Hawks, will field fly-half Jason Tovey, wing Matthew Pewtner, centre Ross Wardle, scrum-half Wayne Evans, loosehead prop Owen Evans, hooker Sam Parry and lock Ian Nimmo.
The Bridge Field outfit will also include their new signing Matthew Screech, the former Wales Under-20s second row who has been training with the Dragons.
"You can train as much as you like but there is nothing quite like that first bit of contact and it will good for some of the squad to have a bit of a physical work out," said team manager Robert Beale.
"Not only do the players have the opportunity to get some pitch time but Lyn and his coaches can have a good look at how they perform.
"It's a great chance for those squad members that play today to build towards the game against Bath."