No need to panic! Dragons coach upbeat despite loss to semi-pros
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards remains upbeat after his full-timers lost 16-10 to the semi-professional Gwent Select side at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
It was the region’s first game of the season and the opposition from Gwent’s three Premiership sides of Cross Keys, Newport and Bedwas pulled off a major upset.
But the part-timers were full value for their victory with a gutsy and full-blooded effort that managed to put the professionals well out of their stride.
Edwards said before the game many of the Premiership players could be playing for future contracts with the Dragons.
After the game he confirmed that some of them, without revealing who, had put their hands up.
Edwards said he was also pleased with the performances of new signings Wales internationals wing Tom Prydie and full back Dan Evans, and lock Ian Nimmo.
On the Dragons’ display, he said: “I’m really pleased because we trained three times on Friday and got the guys out there on Saturday to see what kind of mental attitude they would turn up with.
“In terms of attitude it was excellent. They battled really hard and that was important that we got an edge so that we stay there and battle hard.”
Edwards added: “Patterns of play and the style of things is not a concern for us at the moment.
“We want to make sure we are mentally tough so that we can go toe-to-toe with people.
“That was a physical Premier-ship team and it was a classical physical match.”
On his three new boys making their debut and the performance of hooker Hugh Gustafson, converted from a prop, Edwards said: “I was particularly happy with our new players. Ian Nimmo did well in the second row. Dan Evans and Tom Prydie looked very comfortable and as if they had played with us for seasons, which is pleasing.
“If you think that was Hugh Gustafson’s first stint at hooker out there. We put him under pressure and he’s dealing with it. It’s great.”
Just under half of the Gwent Select side had trained with the Dragons over the summer and Edwards said he is delighted the region are continuing to forge close relationships with their feeder clubs.
“This has been an important process because 12 of those players trained with us over the off season,” he said.
“They are not just names playing for other teams now. We know them personally and we will be looking out for them.
“The attitude these guys came here with showed they want to play for the Dragons and that was the important thing about the match. Now I’ve got a pool of players that has just expanded by another team.
“That’s important, I can call on people and hopefully give some of these guys full professional contracts in the future.
“They were superb. Whatever you say about rugby, it’s about attitude and commitment first. That’s why I would have no problem putting a number of these guys into our team, because they’ve got that.”