BEDWAS tighthead prop Joe Mills is poised for his regional debut after being named on Newport Gwent Dragons’ bench for the LV= Cup encounter with Northampton tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm).
It is set to be a rapid rise for the 25-year-old carpenter who was playing lock for Rumney in Division One East last season.
He took a week off work to train with the Dragons and will be rewarded when he comes off the bench for Nathan Buck at some stage against the Saints at Rodney Parade.
“It’s great for Joe and for the club,” said Bedwas head coach Steve Law. “He has played exceptionally well this season and the Dragons clearly see the potential in him.
“Joe is a very good player and just needs the opportunity and the conditioning that comes with regional rugby.
“He has got a lot to learn – as you’d expect of someone who has recently moved to tighthead – but he carries hard, tackles and has a huge work rate for a prop.
“Joes is quiet, reserved person who is self-critical and honest, which will serve him well.”
The Dragons have named a strong side for the clash against the Saints with fly-half Jason Tovey (ankle), lock Cory Hill (ankle) and number eight Netani Talei (foot) all returning from injury.
Wales Under-20s hopefuls Luc Jones, Elliot Dee and James Benjamin get pre-Six Nations run outs at scrum-half, hooker and flanker respectively while Lewis Evans, who plays for the first time since the New Year’s Day loss at Cardiff Blues, captains the side from blindside flanker.
Northampton will be skippered by former England back row forward Phil Dowson while their side, a mixture of youth and experience, features former Ospreys scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i.
He is part of a cosmopolitan back line that features fellow Samoans Ken Pisi and Fa'atoina Autagavaia as well as New Zealanders Glenn Dickson and James Wilson.
Even a Dragons bonus point win might not be enough to keep their semi-final hopes alive going into Friday’s trip to Newcastle.
Saracens will claim Pool One top spot if they take the spoils from their home encounter with the Falcons on Sunday, although they have picked a stronger side for their friendly against South African club the Sharks tomorrow afternoon.
Dragons: D Evans, M Pewtner, P Leach, A Smith, W Harries, J Tovey, L Jones, P Price, E Dee, N Buck, C Hill, A Jones, L Evans (captain), J Benjamin, N Talei. Replacements: R Thomas, O Evans, J Mills, M Screech, J Groves, R Rees, K Burton, R Wardle.
Northampton: J Wilson, K Pisi, T Stephenson, D Waldouck, F Autagavaia, G Dickson, K Fotuali’i, E Waller, M Haywood, G Denman, R Verbakel, C Day, T Harrison, P Dowson (captain), GJ Van Velze. Replacements: R McMillan, D Hobbs-Awoyemi, A Parkins, B Nutley, M Williams, A Day, S Olver, G Pisi.