A DOUBLE injury blow compounded Newport Gwent Dragons’ European woes after defeat to Wasps in the Amlin Challenge Cup on Saturday evening.
Loosehead prop Aaron Coundley lasted just eight minutes at Adams Park before being forced off with a torn right bicep, while in-form full-back Dan Evans suffered a suspected broken left thumb in the second half.
The Dragons have adequate cover in the front row in the shape of Phil Price, Nathan Williams, Owen Evans, who enjoyed a try-scoring debut, and Hugh Gustafson, who has retrained as a hooker but came on as a loosehead in High Wycombe.
Evans’ injury leaves Tom Prydie and Hallam Amos as the region’s full-back options, and the return from injury of former Springboks wing Tonderai Chavhanga, who made his comeback from summer knee surgery for Newport on Saturday, is a timely one.
But the Dragons’ paper- thin squad is once again stretched to the limit because of injury.
"We’ve got to be looking at 12 weeks for Aaron, while Daniel will need surgery and it’s probably eight weeks out," said director of rugby Robert Beale.
"Both players will be operated on this week and it’s a blow. We have cover for both positions, but just when we start to get players back, which would create competition, we lose others."
It was a defeat that leaves the Dragons with no margin for error against Bayonne at Rodney Parade on Saturday evening.
The French outfit, who seem likely to give a start to Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips, lead the Pool Three tables after their 71-7 drubbing of Italian whipping boys Mogliano.
Defeat to Bayonne would signal the end of the Dragons’ European campaign before they have even had the opportunity to get on a plane.
"It’s a tough game but it’s a home game and we have to win," said Beale. "If we had got a win or even a bonus point at Wasps it would have been great, but we need to win against Bayonne now to stay in the mix.
"We head back into work far happier than we did after the defeat to the Scarlets a week ago because I felt that the passion and commitment that we asked for were there.
"But there is also a great amount of frustration because we put a lot of effort in, only to pay the price for indiscipline and silly errors.
"All the talk was positive at half-time after getting ourselves back into it (at 25-15) but we went back out and conceded three soft penalties.
"That meant we were climbing up a hill but at the same time you have to give credit to Wasps, on the day we lost to a better side.
"They played at an intensity that we struggled to match at times and ensured they got a lot of quick ball and were on the front foot.
"But I have to give our players credit, they dug in until the very end. We lick our wounds and we look forward to Bayonne."