DRAGONS v NORTHAMPTON (Sunday, KO 3.15)
SCRUM-HALF Wayne Evans is relishing the task of marshalling the Newport Gwent Dragons pack in another stern test against imposing English opposition.
The 28-year-old made his first appearance of the season in last weekend’s 36-15 defeat to Bath at the Rec.
On Sunday he will don the number 9 jersey for the first time since pre-season when he starts against Northampton in the LV= Cup at Rodney Parade.
It promises to be a bruising encounter but Evans, who suffered a back spasm on the eve of the RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Zebre, can’t wait to get stuck in.
“It’s been massively frustrating being unable to do my job, especially because it just felt like a niggle that would only force me to be out for a week or so,” he said.
“But I’ve done two pre-seasons and I feel good and ready to go now – I’m looking forward to a good battle with Jonathan Evans for the starts, because he has played very well.
“It was good to get back out there against Bath, even though the result was disappointing. A few of the youngsters played really well but their power and strong driving lineout just showed at the end.
“Northampton are even more direct than Bath and are known for their scrum and lineout.
“With guys like Courtney Lawes set to be in their side it is going to be a great challenge for our forwards and one that I know they are excited by.”
The Dragons’ fixture schedule has not been kind with a massive must-win Pro12 encounter with Connacht coming just five days after the Saints clash.
None the less, head coach Darren Edwards has picked a strong squad as they look to return to winning ways following six defeats on the spin.
“It’s a very short turnaround and we cannot afford to have lots of things to fix ahead of Connacht,” he said.
“The recovery from a game is two days, so we will be looking at one day of training going into what is a huge game for us.
“There is a lot of pressure on this performance because we cannot shy away from the fact that we haven’t been functioning well in many areas this season.
“We’ve had a good week of training and it is crucial that we transfer that to the field against an Aviva Premiership contender.
“It’s a huge challenge and Northampton will also be looking to right some wrongs after their recent defeats (four on the spin).”
The Dragons welcome back a number of established players, including former Springboks speedster Tonderai Chavhanga.
Edwards insists that is not a reflection on the performance of Bedwas wing Ross Wardle, who will be in action against Cardiff tomorrow a week after scoring on his regional debut in Bath.
“Ross played very well and we will continue to watch him very closely,” said Edwards. “He impressed when he joined us in pre-season and certainly did himself no harm at all with how be did in Bath.”
Dragons squad: D Evans, W Harries, T Chavhanga, T Prydie, J Dixon, A Smith, A Tuilagi, P Leach, L Robling, J Evans, W Evans, O Evans, P Price, S Jones, H Gustafson, D Way, N Buck, R Sidoli, A Jones, I Nimmo, L Evans, T Brown, I Jones, J Groves, N Cudd.