CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Lyn Jones has to keep his Dragons squad happy
IT'S a balancing act for Newport Gwent Dragons boss Lyn Jones.
On one hand he wants to be consistent in selection in order to allow his ideas, structures and units to settle.
On the other he wants to give everyone a chance to show what they can do.
This is where Jones' experience will come to the fore over the coming weeks, the former Ospreys and London Welsh boss has to encourage those on the sidelines and assure them that their time will come.
This is especially important for a pair of bright young talents that have found their paths to the starting XV blocked so far.
Jonathan Evans, the Dragons' player of the 2012/13 season, has been leapfrogged by summer signing Richie Rees.
An unused replacement against Ulster, 21-year-old Evans did at least get onto the pitch in the second half against Edinburgh.
Wales Under-20s back row forward Ieuan Jones hasn't had such luck.
The 20-year-old from Aberbargoed isn't that far down the pecking order for Warren Gatland's sWales squad but hasn't had a sniff for the Dragons this term and is in direct competition with Lions star Toby Faletau, impressive Fijian Netani Talei and a rejuvenated Lewis Evans.
Jones was on duty for Newport at Aberavon last Saturday and will be rewarded if he keeps his head down in training and grafts hard.
That applies for countless others – hookers Sam Parry and Hugh Gustafson, tighthead Nathan Buck, lock Ian Nimmo, centre/wing Adam Hughes, wing Will Harries – and everyone will be needed over the course of the season.
The new management team's mantra has been that everyone starts with a clean slate. Their challenge is keeping those that haven't had first crack happy.
The way that the Dragons dropped a point at Murrayfield last Friday was galling.
Kris Burton, 33 and a player with Test experience, made a howler when he kicked a restart dead with just second remaining.
A powerful Edinburgh scrum and fly-half Harry Leonard's right boot subsequently turned a 13-13 draw into a 16-13 home win.
Mistakes happen and no doubt Burton's right boot will secure plenty more points as the season progresses.
And as disappointing as it was to see two points for a draw turn into a solitary losing bonus point, at least the Dragons kept their tally moving in the Scottish capital.
Last season they earned league points in just nine of their 22 games and secured just three losing bonus points.
Jones is keen to develop a winning mentality at Rodney Parade; he wants to ensure his charges head on their travels looking for victory rather than sneaking a bonus point.
But it's key to keep ticking along and at least the Dragons did that at Murrayfield last week, something that looked unlikely when they were 13-3 down and under the pump with half an hour remaining.
Resilience and determination in defence earned four points against Ulster. It earned another against Edinburgh.
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