8:50am Tuesday 11th February 2014
IT’S not the ideal time for Welshmen to be heading for Dublin but then again Newport Gwent Dragons have never enjoyed their trips to the Irish capital.
The Rodney Parade region take on RaboDirect Pro12 champions Leinster at the Royal Dublin Society on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm), six days after Warren Gatland’s men were humbled by Ireland a stone’s throw away at the Aviva Stadium.
It will be their 11th visit to Dublin and they are yet to avoid defeat.
The Dragons have endured nothing but misery since heading to Lansdowne Road with hopes of winning the title in 2004.
Mike Ruddock’s team lost a 12-try thriller 56-39 on that May evening and have been on the receiving end of nine more heavy beatings.
The average score from the meetings in Dublin is Leinster 38 Newport Gwent Dragons 15 and the Irish province’s smallest margin of victory was nine points in their 23-14 success in 2009.
Friday’s hosts will be overwhelming favourites to make it 11 wins on the spin but the Dragons can take hope from their shock Pro12 win in Glasgow in November.
Not many gave them a hope of beating the title hopefuls at Scotstoun Stadium but they produced their best display of the campaign to win 23-8 with fly-half Jason Tovey bagging a clean sweep of a try, two conversions, a drop goal and two penalties.
That victory came during the autumn internationals and Friday’s hosts will also be affected by international call-ups.
Ireland’s side matchday squad that demolished Wales contained 13 Leinster players – full-back Rob Kearney, centres Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, wing Dave Kearney, props Cian Healy and Mike Ross, lock Devin Toner and number eight Jamie Heaslip started while hooker Sean Cronin, props Jack McGrath and Matt Moore, scrum-half Isaac Boss and centre Fergus McFadden were on the bench.
But the champions are used to coping without their big guns as they showed both at Rodney Parade on November 1, when they triumphed 23-19, and at Zebre on Sunday.
They eased to a 31-8 bonus-point victory at the Stadio XXV Aprile and were still able to field a side containing South African full-back Zane Kirchner, Kiwi fly-half Jimmy Gopperth, Ireland locks Leo Cullen and Mike McCarthy, flanker Shane Jennings and the highly impressive number eight Jordi Murphy.
The seventh-placed Dragons were overtaken by the Scarlets in the Pro12 table last weekend after their encounter with Edinburgh at Rodney Parade was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
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