NEWPORT Gwent Dragons coach Kingsley Jones says his side face a “massive challenge” against Bordeaux-Bègles away on Thursday night and calls for a big step up in the scrum, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
The region’s forwards guru knows what it’s like to be on the wrong side at the Stade André Moga in the Amlin Challenge Cup after he suffered a 93-7 pasting from the French side as captain of Ebbw Vale way back in 1996.
But the Dragons’ magnificent 40-24 bonus point victory over the French Top 14 side on Friday night at Rodney Parade has kept them well in the hunt in the tournament and given them the belief they can win there.
They are only three points behind group leaders Bath and if they can do the double over Bordeaux-Bègles this week, it would set up a real humdinger when Gary Gold’s men travel to Newport next month as they look to make the quarter-finals of the competition for only the second time.
The only real negative from last Friday’s win – the Dragons scoring five sparkling tries with a display of vintage champagne rugby – was that their scrum was under severe pressure at times.
“We were really positive and played with excellent intent which we showed from the start,” Jones said of last week’s triumph.
“We know Bordeaux-Bègles are a good Top 14 side despite the fact they are down near the bottom because they have put together some fine performances and pushed Toulon close away from home – they are a dangerous side.
“Our attacking game was excellent but we’ve got a lot of work to do on our scrum because they’ve got one of the best in France.”
Former Wales skipper Jones added: “I thought Toby Faletau was excellent, Lewis Evans and Nic Cudd too – all the back row trio were great as was Andrew Coombs with a big performance in the second row in his first game for about five weeks.
“The try which Hallam Amos created putting Dan Evans through and that Toby scored was outstanding and showed our positive mindset towards the game.
“But it’s only half-time and we have a massive challenge waiting for us down in France.
“It’ll be ten times as tough down there and they’ve only lost twice at home this season – one of those was to Bath in this competition.
“To face them at home we know we need a big improvement in the scrum.”
Referring to his own traumatic experience as a player with the Steelmen in the South of France 17 years ago, he said: “It is one of the most difficult places I have ever played. I was there with Ebbw Vale and we got hammered.
“Bernard Laporte (former France boss and current Toulon head coach) was in charge then when they were one of the best teams in France and the crowd were incredibly hostile.”