Power game: Dragons call for heavyweights
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have attempted to beef up their side to try and combat the beasts of Bayonne at Rodney Parade this evening.
The Dragons front eight have struggled of late – they were outmuscled by the Scarlets in the set piece and overpowered by hard-carrying London Wasps in their Amlin Challenge Cup opener.
Bayonne boast a pack that contains former All Blacks prop Neemia Tialata, ex-Australia lock Mark Chisholm, Kiwi flanker Dwayne Haare alongside their powerful and big French units.
In a bid to combat that brawn the Dragons have opted for three specialist locks in their matchday squad – with Ian Nimmo and Rob Sidoli backed up by Adam Jones – and they have also handed a recall to hard-hitting Samoan Andy Tuilagi in midfield.
It contrasts to their selection at Wasps when Jevon Groves, normally a back row forward, was selected at lock because of his contact area skills.
"Bayonne are packed full of talent, plenty of it from overseas," said Dragons director of rugby Robert Beale.
"They have a very strong squad, a lot of power and we are expecting a traditional French approach up front with plenty of threats in the backs as well.
"We sat down at the start of the week discussing selection but in all honesty it has been totally shaped by the footage that we have seen of Bayonne.
"The feeling going into the Wasps game was that we needed to play a wide game but tonight we have three specialist second rows in our squad and throughout the team we have our bigger units.
"We have to match what they bring in terms of power and put them under pressure and make them feel uncomfortable here."
The Dragons hand a first start to loosehead prop Owen Evans after he made a promising debut as an early replacement at Adams Park.
He packs down next to veteran hooker Steve Jones, who was not involved against Wasps, while there are four changes in the three-quarters.
Tuilagi comes in for Ashley Smith, Jonathan Evans returns at scrum-half where he will go up against Wales star Mike Phillips, Tom Prydie replaces injured full-back Dan Evans and wing Tonderai Chavhanga makes his return following summer knee surgery.
Bayonne are waiting on the fitness of South African right wing Sam Gerber... and the Dragons might just hopes he is given the all clear.
If he fails to get the green light then former New Zealand finisher supreme Joe Rokocoko will slot in on the wing and provide a fascinating duel with Chavhanga.
Dragons: T Prydie, W Harries, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, T Chavhanga, L Robling, J Evans, O Evans, Steve Jones, N Buck, I Nimmo, R Sidoli, T Brown, L Evans (captain), T Faletau. Replacements: S Parry, N Williams, D Way, A Jones, J Groves, L Davies, Steffan Jones, P Leach.
Bayonne: S Spedding, S Gerber/J Rokocoko, T Lacroix, G Lovobalavu, M O’Connor, B Boyet, M Phillips, A Iguiniz, D Roumieu, N Tialata, A Boutaty, M Chisholm, J Marmouyet, D Haare, J Puricelli. Replacements: F Da Ros, P Lafond, V Manukula, R Linde, M Baget, C Gargia, M Ugalde, C Heymans.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)