Dragons set to host Saints in Ebbw Vale
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are set to play English champions Northampton in Ebbw Vale because of Barack Obama and his fellow world leaders.
The Dragons have agreed a home pre-season friendly against the Saints, who won their first Aviva Premiership title last season, on Friday, August 29.
However, they will not be playing the game at Rodney Parade due to security measures in Newport ahead of the Nato summit at the Celtic Manor the following week.
The situation enables the Dragons to play a major game outside of the city for the first time since August 2003 and the likely destination is Eugene Cross Park.
The region have previously investigated the possibility of playing an LV= Cup game at the home of the Steelmen.
Administration issues, such as the lack of hospitality boxes, the small number of seats in the grandstand and the need to notify season ticket holders before they made their purchase, prevented them from playing a competitive game away from Rodney Parade but there are no such problems for a friendly encounter.
And Ebbw Vale look set to strike gold with the Dragons' clash against Northampton, who won the Premiership and the Amlin Challenge Cup last season and boast the likes of George North, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Luther Burrell and Samu Manoa in their ranks.
The Dragons' first game on Welsh soil was a pre-season friendly against Leeds at Pontypool Park in 2003 and they enjoyed a trio of encounters with Gwent Select XVs at Cross Keys' Pandy Park.
An added bonus of hosting the Saints at Eugene Cross Park is that there will be less strain on the Rodney Parade pitch, which is also home to Newport RFC and Newport County.
The Northampton game will be the Dragons' second pre-season friendly with Bristol their opponents at Ashton Gate on Sunday, August 17 (kick-off 3pm).
Director of rugby Lyn Jones, who was appointed last June, bemoaned the region's poor preparation for 2013/14 when their home friendly against Bath was their solitary warm-up for the Pro12.