NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will be without forwards Netani Talei, Nathan Buck and Phil Price for Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 showdown away to Connacht.
Fiji international back rower Talei (heel), tighthead prop Buck (shoulder) and loosehead Phil Price (hip) won’t be making the trip to Galway this week.
Talei’s absence means Wales and British and Irish Lions star Toby Faletau and the up-and-coming Ieuan Jones will compete for the number eight jersey.
But there is good news for the Dragons in that Tom Prydie could be back in time for their home clash with Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day.
The Wales international utility back has nearly overcome a hamstring injury to feature in the derby which kicks off at 5pm a week tomorrow at Rodney Parade.
A further imminent boost could also come in the return of highly regarded openside flanker Darren Waters who might be back in action next month.
The 28-year-old is making an excellent recovery after rupturing ligaments in his left knee during the Dragons' 18-12 pre-season friendly win over London Irish in August.
Fly-half Lewis Robling could also be playing again in January, the former Wales Under-20s man battling to get over a blow to his knee while promising young centre Jack Dixon, 19, is still carrying a foot injury.
Dragons head physiotherapist Ben Searle gave an injury update: “Jack Dixon is still out injured with his foot as well as Lewis Robling with his knee injury. Lewis looks to be back at the beginning of the New Year as he is progressing very well.
“Darren Waters is another player who is progressing well through his injury and I look forward to his return in January, as long as he stays on track.”
He added: “Netani Talei is out this week with an injury to his heel as well as Nathan Buck who is out this week with a shoulder injury.
“Tom Prydie, who injured his hamstring whilst training with Wales, is almost fully fit and should be in contention for the Cardiff Blues derby next week – if he stays on track.
“Phil Price is also injured with a hip problem and should hopefully be back in training next week.”
The Dragons will be keen to bounce back after last Thursday’s heavy 32-13 setback away at Bordeaux-Bègles in the Amlin Challenge Cup as they look to put their European gloom behind them for this weekend’s encounter at the Sportsground.
Connacht are struggling badly in the league this season, bottom of the PRO12 table with just a solitary win in the competition – their opening day 25-16 victory over Zebre who are one place and one point above them.
But they have shown what they can do by stunning the rugby world this month with their totally unexpected 16-14 victory away in the Heineken Cup to record, four-times winners Toulouse.
Dragons squad to face Connacht – Backs: Richie Rees, Wayne Evans, Luc Jones, Jason Tovey, Steffan Jones, Kris Burton, Pat Leach, Ashley Smith, Ross Wardle, Matthew Pewtner, Will Harries, Adam Hughes, Hallam Amos, Daniel Evans.
Forwards: Owen Evans, Aaron Coundley, Hugh Gustafson, Sam Parry, T Rhys Thomas, Elliot Dee, Dan Way, Francisco Chaparro, Cory Hill, Matthew Screech, Andrew Coombs, Rob Sidoli, Jevon Groves, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans, Ieuan Jones, Toby Faletau.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)