CHRIS KIRWAN: Senior forwards will give captain Byrne a helping hand

NEW SKIPPER: Lee Byrne will be given a hand by his Newport Gwent Dragons pack

NEW SKIPPER: Lee Byrne will be given a hand by his Newport Gwent Dragons pack

First published in Sport
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NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will hope that they've struck gold by naming Lee Byrne as captain for the coming season.

The 34-year-old seems a good choice given that he has 46 Wales caps, a Test appearance for the British and Irish Lions against South Africa, Heineken Cup experience with French big guns Clermont Auvergne and success with the Ospreys on his CV.

But there remains a slight doubt about having a full-back as captain.

Think skippers and the mugs of Mervyn Davies, Sean Fitzpatrick, Martin Johnson, Willie John McBride, John Smit, Richie McCaw, John Eales and Paul O'Connell enter your mind.

Seventeen of the world's top 20 nations are currently captained by forwards, with South Africa's Jean de Villiers, Samoa's David Lemi and Georgia's Irakli Machkhaneli the exceptions.

The Dragons have not plumped for a three-quarter since Kevin Morgan got the job in 2006 and Byrne follows in the footsteps of lock/back row Andrew Coombs, flanker Lewis Evans, lock Luke Charteris, hooker Tom Willis and flanker Colin Charvis.

It's traditionally seen as a tough ask for a player to get a feel for the game from 15 and that's where the experienced Dragons campaigners will be asked to play their part.

It will be up to Coombs and Richie Rees to get in the referee's ear, Ian Gough and Ligtoring Landman will need to be vocal in the boilerhouse while Rhys Thomas and Boris Stankovich will have to give the officials a few helpful pointers at the set piece, something that Duncan Bell did excellently at the tail-end of last season.

Byrne will be the man smiling at the launches of the Guinness Pro12 and European Rugby Challenge Cup but it will be a team effort and he will need his seasoned teammates to help shoulder the burden over the coming months.

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