BAYONNE v DRAGONS (Tomorrow, KO 8.10pm)
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will be on red alert at the rucks if they go up against Bayonne’s supreme sniper Mike Phillips tomorrow night.
The French outfit will confirm their line-up this afternoon but it looks likely that Wales scrum-half Phillips will make his first start since being suspended.
The 30-year-old was in Bayonne’s bad books after what the club labelled “unacceptable off-field behaviour”.
He made his return in the 71-7 thrashing of Italian minnows Mogliano last Friday and could well have 9 on his back on his return to Rodney Parade.
Phillips hasn’t always enjoyed his trips to Newport and famously responded to some Hazell Terrace heckling when the Ospreys were sent packing in 2010.
But the Dragons are all too aware that Phillips – favourite to be the starter for the Lions in Australia next summer – will relish a physical confrontation.
“We will have to watch him closely because he loves a little dart or a snipe,” said Tom Brown, who will start at blindside flanker.
“He is almost another back row so we will have to be tight around the rucks and be on our guard at all times.
“Bayonne will be physical and will want to carry hard at us and play off that ball, just like Wasps last week (on their way to a 38-25 win).
“We will have to defend strongly and try to stop them at source, which needs us to really concentrate without the ball.”
The Dragons will need to thrive in the ugly parts of the game if they are to send Bayonne packing and keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup alive.
And Brown is more than happy to do the dirty work in the unfamiliar role of blindside flanker.
A number eight by trade, the 29-year-old is deputising for injured Wales star Dan Lydiate and slots in alongside Toby Faletau.
“Blindside traditionally does the unseen work,” said Brown.
“I’m happy to get my head down in rucks and work hard around the pitch.
“But I am still in the side to carry, work alongside Toby and provide another option against a physical side.
“We will have two sets of four forwards, three rucking and one carrying, and we all have to do our bit.”