CHRIS KIRWAN: Leadership not a problem for Dragons

England's Alastair Cook appears dejected after India's victory during day five of the second test at Lord's Cricket Ground, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date Monday July 21, 2014. See PA Story CRICKET England. Photo credit should r

England's Alastair Cook appears dejected after India's victory during day five of the second test at Lord's Cricket Ground, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date Monday July 21, 2014. See PA Story CRICKET England. Photo credit should r

First published in Sport

PERHAPS it is only a chronic lack of alternatives that means Alastair Cook will lead out England in the third Test against India in Southampton on Sunday.

That there are few options to take over as skipper points to a key factor, along with a lack of runs, in the opener's struggles.

A captain needs big figures around him to shoulder the burden but the likes of Matt Prior, Ian Bell and Stuart Broad have also been hideously out of form while Kevin Pietersen got the boot, Graeme Swann retired and Jonathan Trott was hit by illness.

It has left their captain exposed.

One man alone does not set the tone in a dressing room or on the field; it takes a group effort to establish the culture of a successful team.

To that end Newport Gwent Dragons hope their management team will be aided by some senior recruits in 2014/15.

Over the years the Rodney Parade region have got used to operating with a smaller backroom staff than most of their rivals. In fact, at one stage in the Darren Edwards era they were not only wearing plenty of coaching hats but were spending time decorating the gym in the south east corner of the ground.

Director of rugby Lyn Jones and head coach Kingsley Jones are preparing for a second season at the helm and the signs are that some old pros will help shoulder the burden.

It's that time of year where every rugby and football team is positive about what lies ahead; 'the lads are working hard and looking sharp' up and down the land.

There was certainly a good vibe at Rodney Parade last week when the region held a pre-season dinner in the Bisley Suite.

The majority of the squad sat at the back, supping their blackcurrant cordial, mindful that the following morning they would have a tough training session (not to mention a team social at Glamorgan's T20 game against Essex).

But a quartet of new boys were on a table with the two Joneses ahead of doing a Q&A session.

And when Aled Brew, Andy Powell, Lee Byrne and particularly Ian Gough took to the stage they impressed with the way that they spoke about their hopes, expectations and demands for the coming season.

They are experienced players with success on their sporting CVs and the same goes for the slightly more reserved Boris Stankovich, who packed plenty of medals for the removal van to bring down to South Wales from Leicester.

Brew is the only member of that quintet under the age of 30, prompting the predictable jibes about the Dragons' Dad's Army.

But the seasoned players are already playing a big role in fostering team spirit and hammering home what will be needed to enjoy a prosperous season.

It can't all come from the coaches; the squad needs to be self-monitoring and the Dragons shouldn't fall short on that front with the above quintet, Andrew Coombs, Richie Rees, Netani Talei, Ligtoring Landman, Rhys Thomas.

They have all been signed by the Dragons to play but also to ensure that the next generation have mentors.

Gough immediately has the respect of lock Joe Davies, Luke Garrett will be all cauliflower ears when listening to Stankovich, Byrne and Brew can offer a wealth of experience for Hallam Amos, Tyler Morgan and Jack Dixon to tap into while James Benjamin and Scott Matthews will see how hard Powell trains.

Cook has cut a lonely figure as England struggle but the Dragons appear to have a group that will take ownership and won't just look for the director of rugby and head coach to provide direction.

Now they just need to get the green light for Brok Harris to shore up the right side of their scrum.

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