7:40am Friday 15th June 2012
By Chris Kirwan
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards has challenged his squad to make a statement in Europe and press for the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup, writes Chris Kirwan.
Yesterday’s draw pooled the region with London Wasps, Bayonne, who boast Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips in their ranks, and Italian minnows Mogliano. The Dragons will still be underdogs but will quietly fancy their chances of giving bloody noses to their English and French opponents.
Both Wasps, who are coached by former Rodney Parade boss Paul Turner, and Bayonne spent last season battling to avoid relegation.
Edwards has warned against reading too much into those struggles against the drop but is hopeful of adding a pair of scalps to that of Perpignan, claimed at Rodney Parade last season.
“The league is our bread and butter but making a statement in Europe is massively important,” said Edwards.
“I think we took an important step with victory against Perpignan last year only to fall short against Exeter.
“As always in Europe you have to target three home wins and then another victory against either Wasps or Bayonne would leave us in fantastic shape and it would be a fantastic achievement to be in the mix for qualification.
“It is impossible to pass judgement on teams in the summer and I certainly think Wasps will be a different beast to last season when they were hit by injuries.
“Bayonne will be a great test while you’ve got to be honest when it comes to Mogliano and say that we will not have performed properly as professionals if we don’t take 10 points from the games.
“But we will prepare properly and give them the respect they deserve.
“But it’s an exciting draw and I am looking forward to seeing how our young players respond to new experiences and challenges.”
Pool 1: Gloucester, London Irish, Bordeaux-Bègles, Mont-de-Marsan
Pool 2: Perpignan, Worcester, Femi-CZ VEA Rovigo, Bizkaia Gernika RT
Pool 3: London Wasps, Newport Gwent Dragons, Bayonne, Rugby Mogliano
Pool 4: Bath, Cammi Rugby Calvisano, Agen, Bucharest Wolves
Pool 5: Stade Français, Newcastle*, I Cavalieri Prato, Grenoble
Newcastle Falcons’ participation is subject to an appeal to the Rugby Football Union by London Welsh.
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