Dragons ready for Italian referee in Limerick clash
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will hope that it’s a case of better the devil they know when they take on Munster in Limerick.
Italian referee Marius Mitrea will be the man in the middle a fortnight after taking charge of the Dragons’ clash with Leinster in Dublin.
The region head into Saturday’s RaboDirect Pro12 encounter after falling foul of Welsh official Neil Hennessy in last weekend’s derby defeat to Cardiff Blues.
The Dragons were penalised 17 times on a frustrating evening where the breakdown was a bun fight and confusion reigned because of inconsistency.
The region can ill afford a repeat at Thomond Park this weekend and they should take heed from their Leinster outing.
It took them a while to get used to Mr Mitrea at the Royal Dublin Society and at half-time they changed their defensive policy of fiercely contesting every breakdown in favour of spreading out and filling the field.
“We had 15 penalties against us at Leinster so we have to learn our lessons and have fewer than that,” said head coach Darren Edwards.
“We do referee profiles but it tends to be tough at the start of the season because they are getting games under their belts as well.
“However, this is the second time we’ve had this ref and we have to look at his traits and play accordingly so that we don’t get on the wrong side of the penalty count.
“There was no momentum against the Blues because of the 17 penalties and I’ve heard the referee getting criticism for the contact area.
“But you are on a slippery slope if you start concentrating on that (rather than the Dragons’ failings) and I cannot allow that to happen.”
The Dragons have failed to add to the five points that they earned on opening weekend while Munster suffered their first loss of the campaign last week when edged out 20-19 by Ulster in a thriller in Belfast.
After the setback against the Blues, Edwards acknowledges that the next three weeks before the start of European competition will be vital for their Pro12 season.
“We go out to Munster to play a team that are playing well, then have a home game against Edinburgh and then play the Scarlets away,” he said.
“There are periods of the season when we need results or the pressure will really build.
“We’ve readjusted our squad slightly because we need to keep them all hungry, competing for places and for players to be fresh.
“We need a really good performance to build momentum and we have to go out there and fight fire with fire.
“That’s a strength of plenty of players in our squad, they like confrontation and I want them to respond to the challenge.”
Openside flanker Nic Cudd, who signed from Llanelli last week, is named in the squad for the first time but is unlikely to be involved.
Hooker Hugh Gustafson (foot) and prop Nathan Buck (neck) have been added to their injured list but are expected to be back in contention for Edinburgh next week.
Dragons squad: D Evans, T Prydie, W Harries, P Leach, A Hughes, A Smith, A Tuilagi, L Robling, Steffan Jones, J Evans, L Davies, P Price, A Coundley, S Parry, Steve Jones, D Way, T Ryan, A Jones, I Nimmo, J Groves, D Lydiate, T Brown, T Faletau, L Evans, H Stoddart, N Cudd.