CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: There's much more depth to Dragons' squad
10:02am Thursday 29th August 2013 in Sport
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons dodged a bullet last season.
The region headed into the campaign with three scrum-halves – Wayne Evans, Joe Bedford and Jonathan Evans.
Wayne Evans was hindered by a back problem throughout the campaign and Bedford didn't play at all at the start of last season because of a shoulder injury and then was released to join Doncaster.
That gave Jonathan Evans, who faced questions about his durability following an injury-plagued start to his career, a chance to impress.
Thankfully he grasped that opportunity – he missed just two LV= Cup games and Argus readers voted him as their player of the year.
But there was precious little competition for the 21-year-old and the Dragons would have been taking to the field with Premiership scrum-halves if he had broken down at the start of the season.
The picture is different as we prepare for 2013/14. The Dragons will have one miffed scrum-half and another angry one on their hands when the matchday squad for Ulster is announced because three into two doesn't go.
Jonathan Evans is fresh from a breakthrough season that put him in the Wales frame, Wayne Evans is back to full fitness and new signing Richie Rees looked sharp in the pre-season game against Bath.
Director of rugby Lyn Jones and his coaching staff have a selection quandary at 9 rather than just looking at who is available.
The same applies throughout the team, notably at fly-half (Jason Tovey or Kris Burton), full-back (Dan Evans or Jason Tovey), wing (where Hallam Amos and Adam Hughes look set to be used this term), hooker (Rhys Thomas, Sam Parry or Hugh Gustafson) and back row (Lewis Evans, Ieuan Jones, Netani Talei, Jevon Groves and Nic Cudd all vying to join Toby Faletau).
But there are still areas for concern, as the friendly against Bath highlighted.
The region have signed a new tighthead but at 24 Francisco Chaparro is young in propping years and the Argentinean is not going to solve the scrumming problems overnight.
The Dragons struggled to come to terms with Bath's driving lineout with mauls racking up yardage with alarming east.
There will be an improvement when Andrew Coombs and Rob Sidoli return in but the region are still lacking a hulking lock, someone of Simon Shaw build that adds grunt and gets their mitts all over the ball when the opposition drive.
And another centre would be handy to go along with the increasingly impressive and influential Jack Dixon, whose gigantic frame and quality performances are ridiculous for an 18-year-old.
It's no surprise that there are still plenty of problems given that the Dragons finished one from bottom of the Pro12 last season but on the whole there seem to be more tough calls facing the Dragons management team.
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