NEWPORT Gwent Dragons forwards coach Rob Appleyard is excited by the imminent prospect of having two fearless flankers battling for selection.

Openside Darren Waters is set to return to action after five months on the sidelines courtesy of knee ligament damage sustained in the region’s final pre-season friendly.

The former bricklayer had been expected to return for the season run-in but is back ahead of schedule and was poised for a run out for Newport last weekend in their British and Irish Cup clash against Connacht. However, a spanner was thrown in the works when snow meant that the Black and Ambers were unable to travel to Athlone, denying Waters his big comeback.

That means a regional return in Saturday’s LV= Cup clash with the Ospreys is unlikely but the hope is that the 27-year-old will be in the selection mix by the time the RaboDirect Pro12 returns with a home clash against Treviso on February 8.

He will be vying for a starting spot with Nic Cudd, who has proved to be king of the jackal turnover since arriving at Rodney Par-ade from Llanelli RFC in September.

“Both Nic and Darren are real talents and it’s going to be great to have them battling it out for that seven jersey,” said Appleyard, himself a former back row forward.

“They are so similar – they are unrelenting flankers with incredible bravery and little or no regard for their own safety.

“Their commitment is incredible and they are happy to fling themselves in at the contact area.

“Nic has been superb for us recently and was deservedly man of the match against Wasps last week.

“Darren is incredibly competitive so that will spur him on, although he needs to be nursed back despite him being so keen to get back out there.

“He has done everything asked of him and more to make sure he has come back from this injury and it will be great to have him back in the mix. I think that rivalry will bring the best out of both of them.”

Captain Lewis Evans is also an option at seven but is likely to be needed elsewhere in the back row over the coming weeks.

The Dragons are without Toby Faletau and Andrew Coombs because of Wales duty while Tom Brown, Hywel Stoddart and Dan Lydiate are injured, though the latter is targeting a return next month so that he can feature in the Six Nations.

That leaves the region down to Evans, Waters, Cudd, Jevon Groves and Wales Under-20s starlet Ieuan Jones as their back row options.

Meanwhile, the bad weather has wreaked havoc with the Dragons’ preparations for Satur-day’s LV= Cup clash against the Ospreys at Rodney Parade.

The players had a rest day yesterday but will train at the indoor barn at the Vale of Glamorgan today because artificial pitches in the region are unplayable.

The squad trained at Newport Velodrome on Monday and Cardiff City House of Sport, next to Cardiff City Stadium, on Tuesday after a morning weights session at Rodney Parade that a number of snowbound players were unable to attend.