Beware French flair
BAYONNE v DRAGONS (Tonight, KO 7.45)
NEWPORT Gwent Drag-ons have been told to expect the unexpected when they lock horns with Bayonne in the south of France this evening.
Tonight’s hosts at the Stade Jean Dauger cannot qualify for the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup so have tinkered with their squad.
Their priority is staying clear of a Top 14 relegation scrap so they have made changes to the side that lost to Stade Francais last weekend.
The Basque outfit have left Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips and heavyweight New Zealand tighthead Neemia Tialata on the bench while All Blacks try machine Joe Rocokoko, Austra-lian lock Mark Chisholm and ex-France flyer Cedric Heymans are not included.
But Dragons head coach Darren Edwards insists that doesn’t make the task any easier for the region.
“It worries me more,” he said. “Bayonne will play with a bit more abandon and you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
“French teams are very challenging when they play with flair and style while the team that we went up against at Rodney Parade was a bit more structured and we knew what was coming.”
The Dragons have also rung the changes because of a challenging schedule that sees them play their fourth fixture in 15 days.
There are nine alterations to the starting line-up that lost to Connacht with Wales number eight Toby Faletau dropping down to the bench.
Chances are given to wing Mike Poole, fly-half Steffan Jones, scrum-half Jon Evans, front row forwards Owen Evans, Hugh Gustafson and Nathan Buck, lock Adam Jones and back row forwards Jevon Groves and Ieuan Jones.
“They’ve all played their part for us this season and we want them to keep giving us selection problems,” said Edwards.
“We want them to prove a point and make our squad as competitive as possible.
“I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how Ieuan Jones goes in the back row because he did fantastically well leading into the Christmas period and was a bit unlucky not to be involved in the derbies.”