England clash the target for Dan Lydiate
CHOP tackling specialist Dan Lydiate claimed his first victim in training yesterday amid hopes that he could return for Wales’ Six Nations finale.
The blindside flanker is not part of the Newport Gwent Dragons squad for Friday’s RaboDirect Pro12 encounter with Glasgow but is nearing a return from a broken right ankle.
The 25-year-old, last season’s Six Nations player of the tournament, could make his comeback after a five-month lay-off in next weekend’s clash against Zebre in Parma.
Wales boss Rob Howley yesterday ruled him out of contention for the games against Italy and Scotland, setting a potential title showdown with England as a target.
And Lydiate, one of the most fearsome defensive players in world rugby, yesterday took another step to a return to the fray by taking part in tackling session with Dragons head of conditioning Alex Lawson, all 5ft 8ins of him.
“Dan is on the cusp of returning and is champing at the bit, I think it will only be a week or so until he is back,” said forwards coach Rob Appleyard.
“We’ve got a really strict back-to-playing policy and once he is signed off by his medical team we have got to make sure he is ready for rugby – the collisions, his ability to break falls and all the various situations.
“He has been working with Alex Lawson for a few weeks now on some rugby specific movements.
“Yesterday Dan was doing live tackling on Alex, which isn’t the best job in the world and I certainly didn’t volunteer.
“He has started some light, controlled tackling and will move onto some more ferocious stuff before working on the contact area.
“He will go through that block of work before he is even considered for selection and then it will be a slow progression, 40 minutes then 60 and so on.
“Dan is a world class player and it would be silly not to pick him – as long as he has fulfilled all of our criteria and we are told he is up for selection.
“If he is picked it is because he is fit enough, it won’t be a case of rushing him back.”
The Dragons will be looking to stay in a winning groove when they welcome Glasgow to Rodney Parade tomorrow.
The region have won three on the spin for the first time since February 2011 after edging out the Ospreys, London Welsh and Treviso.
They remain one from bottom in the Pro12 but could leap above Connacht and Edinburgh if results go their way.
The Dragons are still without winger Tonderai Chavhanga who has a bruised bone in his knee, although, like Lydiate, the former Springboks speedster is nearing a return.
Dragons squad: H Amos, D Evans, T Prydie, W Harries, A Hughes, A Smith, J Dixon, P Leach, S Jones, W Evans, J Evans, O Evans, N Williams, A Coundley, H Gustafson, S Parry, N Buck, D Way, I Nimmo, A Jones, J Tyler, N Cudd, L Evans, I Jones, J Groves.