BEN Roach is a man in demand but the flanker is happy to have twin targets – sevens glory with Wales at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup plus grasping an opportunity in the Dragons back row.

The 23-year-old from Cardiff has been training with the Rodney Parade region this season ahead of his commitments on the World Rugby Sevens Series.

That starts in Dubai next month with the build-up to April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia and July’s World Cup in San Francisco.

But Roach has put the shorter format on the back burner for a little while; after featuring for the Dragons Premiership Select XV in the British & Irish Cup he has been called up to Bernard Jackman’s seniors because of an injury crisis.

He made his bow off the bench in the Guinness PRO14 defeat to Munster in Cork last weekend and will wear 7 on his back in the Anglo-Welsh Cup opener at Northampton this evening (kick-off 5.15pm).

Roach, who made five appearances for Cardiff Blues in the development competition, isn’t sure what the future holds and is happy to just have short-term goals.

“I am fully-contracted by the sevens and if they need me then it probably takes priority but it would be great to take the opportunity here,” he said.

“It’s a big year in the sevens with the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup as well as the World Series but they are trying to build strength in depth and bring some of the younger boys through.

“That gives the likes of myself and Sam Cross, who has gone to the Ospreys, opportunities elsewhere in 15s.

“The World Cup is a goal that the squad has been striving towards and I’d like to think that I’d be a big part of that but at the moment there is a chance here that I’d like to grab with both hands.

“I want to take the bull by the horns and make the most of it here, it’s refreshing after being with the sevens for two years.”

Roach came through the ranks at the Arms Park before making an impression in sevens, racking up 94 games and 20 tries in the World Series.

“Every aspect of your game is under pressure in sevens, whether passing, tackling or contact skills. Your development goes through the roof,” he said.

“The physicality is a lot higher in 15s and there are more hits going in but it’s a good challenge. There is not so much space with 30 men on the field but I am enjoying it.”

Roach will hope to flourish out wide at Franklin’s Gardens but knows that the challenge, as ever against English rivals, starts in the tight.

“They will have a big pack and will be strong, so we’ve got to match that physicality. As long as we back our skills we will be fine,” he said.

“It was a disappointing night at Munster but we’ve learned lessons and hopefully we will rectify those mistakes and put our hands up for the coaches.

“If you show promise to Bernard that you can do it for the team and produce in those key moments then he is willing to give boys more chances.”

Wing Ashton Hewitt will captain the Dragons for the first time today.

The 22-year-old speedster leads a XV featuring three debutants – academy prospect Joe Goodchild at full-back, on-loan Ospreys centre Joe Thomas and RGC 1404 number eight Huw Worthington, who hails from Powys.

Experience comes in the form of Hewitt, ex-Saints centre Pat Howard, scrum-half Charlie Davies and the tight five. Props Luke Garrett and Lloyd Fairbrother, hooker Liam Belcher and lock Rynard Landman played in Cork while Matthew Screech makes a welcome return from injury in the second row.

Northampton: H Mallinder, JP Estelles, R Hutchinson, T Stephenson, K Pisi, S Myler, C Reinach, F van Wyk, R Marshall, J Ford-Robinson, M Paterson, S Dickinson (captain), T Wood, B Nutely, M Eadie. Replacements: M Haywood, M Beesley, P Hill, A Moon, T Harrison, A Mitchell, J Grayson, B Foden.

Dragons: J Goodchild, J Rosser, J Thomas, P Howard, A Hewitt (captain), A Robson, C Davies, L Garrett, L Belcher, L Fairbrother, M Screech, R Landman, A Wainwright, B Roach, H Worthington. Replacements: G Ellis, T Davies, B Harris, S Andrews, L Greggains, O Leonard, A O’Brien, A Warren.