THE Newport Gwent Dragons pack that produced a fine display in the mud at Cardiff Arms Park has been rewarded by being retained for today’s derby with the Ospreys at Rodney Parade.
The coaching staff have made no changes up front – either to the eight starting or the five on the bench – after they had the upper hand against the Blues on Boxing Day.
The Dragons failed to take their chances in the capital but the 12-10 defeat was not down to any shortcomings up front.
“The forwards were outstanding at the Arms Park and provided us with a terrific platform,” said head coach Darren Edwards.
“As coaches we have to reward that performance because they did everything that we asked of them.
“They did very well and will need to do very well again because the Ospreys have a terrific power game.
“We’ve told them that we want more of the same and will be looking for the likes of Lewis Evans and Toby Faletau – who were immense in Cardiff – to back up that display.”
There are three changes behind with wing Tom Prydie, fly-half Lewis Robling and scrum-half Jonathan Evans handed starts.
Steffan Jones returns to the matchday squad for the first time since the LV= Cup clash at Bath in November in the absence of Dan Evans, who sprained his left ankle at the Arms Park.
There is not yet a timescale for Evans’ return but the injury is not too serious.
Prydie returns from a knee injury to form a back three with Hallam Amos and Will Harries, a move that sees wing Mike Poole drop out of the 23.
“It’s harsh on Pooley and I feel for him because he put everything in against the Blues,” said Edwards.
“But it’s a tactical change and we need Tom’s kicking, both at goal and out of hand.
“Hallam also deserves another start because I thought he did very well on Boxing Day and showed glimpses of his talent.
“He made one mistake (when taking a quick throw and kicking poorly, leading to a Blues penalty) but he will learn from that and some of his takes of the high ball were sensational.”
The Ospreys include influential Wales tighthead Adam Jones alongside fellow internationals Ryan Bevington and Richard Hibbard in a powerful front row.
Former Dragons Richard Fussell, Tom Isaacs and Joe Bearman start at full-back, centre and number eight respectively, while ex-Newport back row Ryan Jones starts on the blindside.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Dragons: H Amos, W Harries, P Leach, A Tuilagi, T Prydie, L Robling, J Evans, P Price, S Parry, D Way, R Sidoli, A Coombs, L Evans (captain), N Cudd, T Faletau. Replacements: H Gustafson, O Evans, N Buck, A Jones, T Brown, W Evans, S Jones, J Dixon.
Ospreys: R Fussell, R Jones, T Isaacs, A Bishop, E Walker, D Biggar, K Fotuali’i (captain), R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jones, L Peers, J King, R Jones, S Lewis, J Bearman. Replacements: S Baldwin, D Jones, C Griffiths, J Thomas, M Allen, T Habberfield, M Morgan, A Beck.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)