Dragons boss Lyn Jones 'excited' by European challenge
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones is “excited” by his region’s forthcoming Amlin Challenge Cup campaign and insists they aren’t just in it to make up the numbers.
The Dragons kick off their tournament against Mogliano at Rodney Parade on Friday, October 11 before a cross-border cracker away at Bath on Saturday, October 19.
They don’t face the third team in their group, Top 14 strugglers Bordeaux Bègles, until a double header in December.
And Jones, who coached the Ospreys into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in 2008, can’t wait for the Amlin Challenge Cup to get under way.
“I am looking forward to it – I haven’t been as excited about a European competition for a long while,” he said.
“I think Bath are red hot favourites for the tournament and a visit to The Rec is going to be an enjoyable experience and we’ll be trying to make sure that we are in a position that come January, we are still competitive when we’ll have Bath at home and Mogliano away.
“That’s a long way away but we’ll shape our future in the next two weeks.”
Jones added: “I think it’s important that we target all competitions and what we want is to be as competitive as we can.
“(The group stages) are like having six cup finals and the form book goes out of the window – anything can happen on the day, as we’ve seen in the past in various matches.
“I think they’ve got the format right with the Amlin now and it offers a good development for the game in other countries with a team in it from Portugal and Romania.”
The futures of the Amlin Challenge Cup and the first-tier Heineken Cup are both in serious doubt as England’s Premiership Rugby and France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby plan to launch their own breakaway competition – the Rugby Champions Cup – in 2014.
The top English and French clubs have extended an invitation to Celtic and Italian teams to join them as they serve a notice period to leave both the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions.
With time running out for a peaceful solution, Jones believes the current Heineken Cup format does need to be looked at.
“I think every competition needs to be revamped – it’s part of moving forward, isn’t it?” he said.
“I’ve no doubt the competition will survive in some format – I just hope it’s a bigger and better one.”
It’s Jones’ goal that the Dragons make sure they are in the top tier European tournament, whatever the future holds.
“We have to have ambitious because without it, you’ve got nothing,” he said.
“Our ambition is to do well in the league this season to qualify in our own rights for the next competition.
“I am pleased with how the players are reacting so far and there are a number of things we need to address, but we are working on them.
“There’s no such thing as a quick fix in rugby. We’ve also got be looking at improving our academy numbers and giving those players more opportunities.”