NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are hopeful they’ll be significantly boosted by the time Connacht arrive next weekend at Rodney Parade for what promises to be one of the defining games in the campaign for the Men of Gwent.
The Dragons are seventh in the Rabo Pro 12, with 28 points, just in front of Connacht who are ninth on 27.
There is no secret that the Dragons would dearly love to finish ahead of at least one of the other Welsh regions after a season of relative progress under Lyn Jones and that is why the Connacht game next Sunday could prove to have real significance by the end of the campaign.
And the Dragons have several players ready to return as they gear up for a weekend at Rodney Parade where the good weather, and Newport County being away next Saturday, will leave them hopeful of an improvement in the playing surface as well.
In terms of personnel, Dan Evans, who departs from the Ospreys in the summer, returns from suspension after serving a five week ban for a tip-tackle in the Dragons’ game with Newcastle in early February.
Exciting youngster Hallam Amos is also available again after missing several weeks with an ankle problem.
However, the Dragons will have to keep a watchful eye on his fellow young talent Jack Dixon, who featured for Wales in U20 action this weekend.
Wales selection is also likely to influence the Dragons with their returning duo Toby Faletau – who hit the headlines yesterday after it emerged he is dating the sister of Real Madrid star Gareth Bale – and skipper Andrew Coombs returning to the region.
However, Faletau in particular could be a doubt for the weekend as he’s yet to miss a minute of Wales’ mixed RBS Six Nations campaign, though Coombs could well be available.
The Dragons are also likely to have their most competitive selection of the season when it comes to selections in the front row.
Veterans Duncan Bell and Bruce Douglas are both set to remain with the region until the end of the campaign and they are joined by Dan Way (back) and Nathan Buck (virus) who have both returned to fitness.
Tighthead Francisco Chaparro is out for ten weeks after being suspended for a tip-tackle in the contest with Leinster.