Wales chance for Dragons
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons’ Wales hopefuls have been given one last chance to impress caretaker coach Rob Howley ahead of the summer tour to Australia.
Howley, who will deputise for Warren Gatland while he recovers from fractured heels, has opted to head to Rodney Parade on Saturday.
He will cast his eye over the Dragons in their last game of the season against RaboDirect Pro12 leaders Leinster rather than take in the Welsh derby between the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues.
There are caps up for grabs this summer because Howley has confirmed Wales’ Millennium Stadium Test against the Barbarians will feature a number of fringe players.
That is because it comes just seven days before the first encounter with the Wallabies and the starters against the Aussies will fly Down Under ahead of those that will go up against the Baa Baas.
Grand Slam-winning trio Toby Faletau, Dan Lydiate and Luke Charteris are certs to head Down Under but Howley wants to see all of his potential squad members close up.
“I’m going to watch the Leinster game and it’s an important game for some of the Dragons guys that have been on the fringes,” he said.
“It might be their last game of the season but it’s a vital one for them because there are places for grabs in that tour party.
“We are likely to send out the Australia Test team a couple of days before but the Baa Baas game remains a very important game for us. We need to focus properly on it in order to give the team the opportunity to be at their best and ensure competition for places throughout the tour.
“That has been a key ingredient over the last 12 months and is something that will continue to be vitally important.”
Howley believes that Gatland will be able to head over from New Zealand to Australia in the second or third week of the tour, which comprises of a game against ACT Brumbies as well as three Tests.
And he believes that the players are relishing the opportunity for another dose of international rugby despite a gruelling 12 months.
“It’s going to be a very hard tour but it is one that we are all thoroughly looking forward to,” he said.
“We want to build on the success of the Grand Slam and winning in the southern hemisphere is a massive target for us.
“We have come up short on a number of occasions against Australia but I think that we are in a very good place.
“Warren has always worked hard to build a coaching team with Shaun Edwards, Robin McBryde, Neil Jenkins and myself and his absence shouldn’t distract from the job in hand, although we hope he will be able to come out in the second or third week.
“And we have a great bunch of players who are hugely committed, hugely talented and will give everything for the cause of over the next eight weeks.”