LLOYD Fairbrother will be an emergency loosehead for the Dragons in tomorrow’s crunch European Challenge Cup clash with Castres (kick-off 2pm) because of a prop crisis.

The 28-year-old will make his first start since November and with 1 on his back rather than his usual 3 as the region hunt a win that would secure qualification for the quarter-finals.

The tighthead prop will move across because Brok Harris has been given a two-week suspension for a dangerous clear-out at a ruck against the Ospreys and Aaron Jarvis, who had been pencilled in to deputise, has suffered a knock to the leg.

Loosehead Ryan Bevington is out with a long-term knee injury while Jack Cosgrove, who signed from Worcester last summer, has retired after suffering a serious eye injury in training.

South Wales Argus:

Director of rugby Dean Ryan has opted for the experience of Fairbrother instead of the promise of 21-year-old Josh Reynolds, who will be on the bench at the Stade Pierre-Fabre.

The Cornishman has made 119 appearances for the Dragons since signing from Exeter in 2014 but has played very few minutes on the right-hand side of the scrum.

Fairbrother played the latter stages of the 2015 Challenge Cup win against Stade Francais at Rodney Parade as a loosehead and started there the following game against his former Chiefs teammates in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

However, later that year the Dragons were allowed to go to uncontested scrums in Edinburgh when both Boris Stankovich and Phil Price were in the sin bin, with coach Kingsley Jones stating post-match that Fairbrother didn’t have sufficient loosehead experience at professional level.

The prop will hope to switch his tighthead nous across and enjoy another strong display in France after impressing in the 2014 win at Stade Francais and 2015 success at Pau.

South Wales Argus:

The Dragons have also opted not to risk wing Ashton Hewitt, who was a late withdrawal from the win against the Ospreys last weekend because of a calf niggle.

That means 20-year-old Rio Dyer continues on the left flank with Jacob Botica, a fly-half by trade, coming in at full-back after Will Talbot-Davies dislocated his right wrist in the dramatic derby win.

Botica, 27, joined from RGC in the summer of 2018 but this will be his first professional start.

Wales lock Cory Hill has recovered from illness to slot straight into the XV but at blindside flanker, taking the place of rested Test teammate Aaron Wainwright.

Hill captains the side because Tavis Knoyle has got the nod ahead of Rhodri Williams at scrum-half. The other change sees Adam Warren preferred to Tyler Morgan at outside centre.

The Dragons name a very inexperience set of replacements with three young front rowers in 21-year-old props Reynolds and Chris Coleman and 22-year-old hooker Ellis Shipp.

Full-back Carwyn Penny could make his first regional appearance from the bench while Arwel Robson, who has not played since the loss to Zebre in November, covers fly-half.

Castres field a stronger team than they did in the opening weekend clash in Newport, which was won 31-17 by the Dragons, with former France scrum-half Rory Kockott pulling the strings.

Castres: J Dumora, F Nakosi, T Combezou, Y David, T Paris, T Fortunel, R Kockott; M Tierney, J Jenneker, W Hounkpatin, L Jacquet, V Moreaux, B Delaporte (captain), A Tulou, A Jelonch. Replacements: K Firmin, W de Benedittis, K Wihongi, C Samson, C Gerondeau, L Radosavljevic, F Vialelle, M Laveau.

Dragons: J Botica, J Rosser, A Warren, T Griffiths, R Dyer, S Davies, T Knoyle, L Fairbrother, E Dee, L Brown, J Davies, M Screech, C Hill (captain), T Basham, R Moriarty. Replacements: E Shipp, J Reynolds, C Coleman, M Williams, H Keddie, R Williams, A Robson, C Penny.

Referee: JP Doyle (England)