New look Cross Keys proud to host European superpower
10:02am Friday 13th December 2013 in Latest Rugby
CROSS Keys look to make it a day to remember at Pandy Park as they welcome the development side of one of the powerhouses of European rugby to the Gwent Valleys this weekend, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
Leinster A will be the visitors as the hosts look to keep their British and Irish Cup dreams alive tomorrow and bounce back from a hefty 31-0 defeat at the hands of the full-time professionals across the Irish Sea last week.
The Welsh club side’s semi-pros were simply overpowered at Dublin’s Donnybrook by former Ireland full-back Girvan Dempsey’s side who took complete control of pool one with a bonus point triumph.
The Irishmen are enjoying heady days, the first XV having won the Heineken Cup three times since first lifting the prestigious trophy in 2009 and looking a good bet this season after thrashing English top dogs Northampton 40-7 away on the weekend.
Some of those who featured for Leinster A against Keys last week have represented the province in Europe’s elite club competition.
So to counter their very real threat, Keys receive a great deal of help from the Newport Gwent Dragons for the return fixture with a mix of old pros, young up-and-coming stars and Pandy Park stalwarts facing them tomorrow.
And it’s all very much to play for the home side, finalists in 2012, against the current champions, the Principality Premiership team still able to qualify for the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup as one of two best group runners-up.
Kris Burton must be set to become the first Italy international to represent Keys, the Dragons fly-half on the bench with regular club man Dorian Jones starting at No 10.
Another experienced player comes into the second row in regional player Adam Jones, the 33-year-old lock winning two Wales caps back in 2006.
Dragons Academy players Lewis Hudd and Ashton Hewitt are on the wings while Luc Jones, son of the region’s director of rugby Lyn Jones, starts at scrum-half with Keys’ No 9s Ryan James and Rhys Dyer both injured.
Keys head coach Greg Woods has enjoyed welcoming all the outside players to Pandy Park and is grateful the club, a feeder for the Dragons, has such a good relationship with the region.
“There was a real buzz in training and it was great to welcome players such as Kris Burton who is such a professional,” he said.
“We want to make this a weekend to remember – welcoming the development side of one of European rugby’s powerhouses to Pandy Park. Who would have imagined that?
“It’s a very proud occasion for us to play host to them.
“It’s also a great opportunity for our club players like Dorian Jones, Gerwyn Price and Leon Andrews to shine with the chance of playing for the Dragons in the future on offer.”
Cross Keys: J Cordy-Redden, L Hudd, L Andrews (capt), A James, A Hewitt, D Jones, L Jones, A Coundley, G Price, C Gould, S Andrews, A Jones, J Groves, S Matthews, I Jones.
Replacements: N Williams, E Dee, A Lott, T Lampard, K Baller, K Burton, E Jones.
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