Dragons wait on Dan Lydiate
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons star Dan Lydiate could make his return to the fray at Rodney Parade on Friday night – but it’s not his ankle that needs to get the green light.
The Wales blindside flanker, Six Nations player of the tournament in 2012, was pencilled in to make his return after five months on the sidelines at Zebre last weekend.
However, a slight hamstring strain delayed his comeback and the region will find out today whether the 25-year-old British and Irish Lions hopeful will feature against European champions Leinster this weekend.
Lydiate broke his ankle against Edinburgh in September and his imminent return is a timely boost as the Dragons look to finish a disappointing season strongly, starting with the RaboDirect Pro12 title-chasing Dubliners on Friday.
The Rodney Parade region have a swift turnaround from Sunday’s nervy 14-13 success against winless Zebre in Parma.
They look set to be without centre Ashley Smith, who will undergo a scan on a shoulder injury today, while loosehead prop Owen Evans twisted an ankle.
But they are at least buoyed by a hard-earned victory when everything seemed to be lining up for an upset against Zebre in Italy.
The problems started on Friday when lock Robert Sidoli withdrew because of illness.
That led to Bedwas’ James Thomas being driven to Heathrow by Dragons head coach Darren Edwards straight after playing in the Premiership at Bridge Field against Cross Keys that evening.
He was on the bench against Zebre and next to him was Adam Jones, who was pencillled in to start before also being struck down by a bug.
That meant back row forward Jevon Groves started at lock on an extremely heavy pitch that had been covered in snow on Sunday morning.
But the Dragons, who were looking to respond to a 60-3 home drubbing by Glasgow, sneaked over the line thanks to a well-taken try by Groves and Steffan Jones’ penalty winner in the closing stages.
“It was nervy but we were delighted to get the win at a tough place to go,” said director of rugby Robert Beale.
“All credit to the people at Zebre for working so hard to get the game on – they were clearing snow off the pitch with tractors at 4am – but the conditions were horrendous.
“It was never going to be pretty because of that but we got what we needed and I’ll admit there was some relief that we didn’t become Zebre’s first victim.”
Leinster, beaten in the Pro12 final in Dublin by the Ospreys last year, head into the game in formidable form.
They have won their last seven fixtures with an average of 30 points scored per game and have climbed to third in the table.