Groves ready for battle of the breakdown
LEINSTER V DRAGONS (Tomorrow, KO 6.15)
JEVON Groves is hoping it will be another day of the jackal for Newport Gwent Dragons in Dublin tomorrow.
The region will be looking to repeat a sterling defensive display that got their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign off to a flyer when they take on European champions Leinster on their own patch.
They scored four tries in a comprehensive 37-6 win against Zebre but it was what they did without the ball that impressed.
The Dragons’ line was not breached despite them defending for 64 per cent of the game.
They made 154 tackles and won ten ‘jackal’ turnovers (where the ball is stolen at the contact area), five of which came from Groves.
It was an impressive display from the 24-year-old given that he was playing in the unfamiliar position of openside flanker because of an injury crisis.
He will wear the seven jersey again at the Royal Dublin Society and hopes to continue to reap the benefits of a hard summer’s graft at the breakdown.
“Our coach Rob Appleyard is a bit of a stickler for defence and our work at the contact area,” said Groves.
“He is very innovative with his techniques and all of the hard work that we have put into that part of the game paid dividends against Zebre.
“We had a lot of bone-on-bone collisions in pre-season but that’s the way that you have to train nowadays and it ultimately helped us get a lot of turnovers and also score a few tries from them.
“It was a great start against Zebre but we know that it will be tough against Leinster after they lost to the Scarlets – if we had lost in that manner (45-20) we would want to prove ourselves in the next game.”
The versatility of Groves, who hit the gym twice a day in the summer to bulk up under a rigorous conditioning plan, is a real blessing for the Dragons coaching team.
He stays at openside this weekend but is prepared to move if captain Lewis Evans make his return from a calf injury off the bench.
The former Wales Sevens skipper will also be the cover for locks Ian Nimmo and Adam Jones and has appeared across the back row in regional rugby.
Groves said: “Ideally I’d like to play blindside but we just so happen to have the best six in the world in our squad!
“Dan Lydiate is incredible and I am just happy to fit in anywhere and play as well as I can.
“Six, seven, eight, second row… the more strings to my bow gives me more chance of selection.
“But playing with Dan and Toby (Faletau) last week certainly made my job easier.
“Toby gets the ball going forward and Dan’s chop tackling makes any seven look a million dollars when big guys are put down and you are first over the ball.”
The triumvirate will be broken up at the RDS tomorrow with Hywel Stoddart making his debut in place of Lydiate.
The Six Nations player of the tournament could have played despite a bruised chest but is not risked ahead of next weekend’s derby against Cardiff Blues.