Dragons aim to keep former All Black on a tight leash
8:02am Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in Dragons
A FORMER All Black is standing between Newport Gwent Dragons and a fine start to the season.
The Rodney Parade region have enjoyed home RaboDirect Pro12 wins against the Scarlets and Ulster so far this term.
If they make it a hat-trick against Zebre on Friday evening, their final league game before a fortnight of Amlin Challenge Cup rugby, then it would be a job well done for a side that finished one from bottom in 2012/13.
Suffer the same fate as Cardiff Blues, who became the Italian side's first scalp at the 31st time of asking last month, and it would put a dampener on the feel-good factor provided by new director of rugby Lyn Jones.
So far this season the new management team have skirted around the strengths of their opponents, preferring to talk about their own targets.
But Jones has been impressed by Zebre's summer recruit Brendon Leonard, the 13-times capped New Zealander who has slotted in superbly after making the move from the Chiefs.
"New Zealand scrum-halves come and instil confidence in others," he said. "I saw that with Justin Marshall (at the Ospreys) and I see it with Leonard.
"He is doing everything for Zebre – making tackles, working at the breakdown, putting people over the gain line and he has an attitude to be positive.
"We have seen the influence that (South Africa scrum-half) Ruan Pienaar has on Ulster, Leonard is doing the same for Zebre."
Jones is set to bring back former Wales scrum-half Richie Rees to go toe-to-toe with the Kiwi.
He said: "They are two of the niggliest scrum-halves in world rugby! Experience is a marvellous thing in your playing staff and Richie offers that.
"He has that understanding of how to play the position and instinct is critical at nine."
Lions and Wales star Toby Faletau will also return at number eight, a sign of respect that the Dragons have for an improving Zebre side.
"We appreciate there is a hell of a lot of work to do on Friday night," said Jones. "We must keep on building on our performances and get our game right.
"Everybody targets home games but you don't expect or deserve to win unless you play well and offer respect to the opposition.
"We do that here – the Scarlets and Ulster brought the best out of us and we will be on our guard against Zebre.
"We need to stand and deliver at home, make it uncomfortable for opponents and put them under pressure."
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