NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are looking to recruit experience rather than potential this summer.
After Saturday’s final Rabo-Direct Pro12 encounter against Leinster, lock Luke Charteris, wing Aled Brew, full-back Martyn Thomas and fly-half Jason Tovey will no longer be on the books at Rodney Parade.
Added to this season’s retirements of Tom Willis, Lloyd Burns, Ben Castle and Nigel Hall, it creates a situation that leaves head coach Darren Edwards desperate to bring in an experienced spine of players to bolster his young side.
Unlike most of Europe’s top sides, the Dragons have not yet nailed down the core of their summer signings.
Edwards would not be drawn on individuals but revealed his summer targets are seasoned campaigners.
The signing of 23-year-old Scarlets full-back Dan Evans is complete while the capture of 20-year-old Ospreys wing/full-back Tom Prydie is understood to be imminent and their fellow new recruits will be ready-made rather than prospects.
Money is tight and the region is playing catch-up but the coaching team’s wish list contains a tighthead, two locks, a back row and two more additions to their three-quarters.
“We need to create a platform up front and we are looking to bring in a number of forwards, whatever our budget can stretch to, and then a couple of backs as well,” said Edwards.
“There is no denying that we will be losing some real quality and we are probably in need of five to seven more players.
“What I am looking to do is add a core of experienced players that will feature prominently but also help in the development of the next generation. We need some battle-hardened players to go along with the young players. Their signings will not be to the detriment of them.
“I think that a lot of boxes have been ticked this season in terms of exposing some young talent to regional rugby.
“That exposure is good but now we need to develop them to the next level and experienced players will be vital to that.
“We are not going to be buying in 32 ready-made players but we do need to bring in a spine of them.”
The development of next season’s talent continues against European champions and Pro12 table-toppers Leinster on Satur-day.
The Dragons will continue to blood fly-half Lewis Robling and hooker Sam Parry, who are both 20, along with a trio of teenagers in full-back Hallam Amos, centre Jack Dixon and scrum-half Jon Evans.
Thomas and Tovey expressed their frustration on Twitter at not being involved one last time for the Dragons but Edwards insists they have to look to the next generation.
“We have got four months of work to do with these young guys because the strength of our squad needs to improve,” he said.
“This league is tough and we need to sustain our performance. That consistency is something that we lack at the moment.
“Our young players have come through some tough stuff this season and from next season we will be expecting performances from them.
“We are not a development region – we have ambitions here – and if we are to make progress then we need those players to keep improving. Saturday is another important step towards that.”