DAN Lydiate returns as captain for the Dragons in their United Rugby Championship clash with Benetton in Treviso tomorrow.

The Wales and Lions flanker, who returned to Rodney Parade last summer after leaving in 2013, gets the nod as skipper in the absence of centre Steff Hughes and scrum-half Rhodri Williams.

The 36-year-old came on in the win against Zebre Parma that lifted the Dragons off the URC basement last time out.

Lydiate starts against play-off hopefuls Benetton at Stadio Monigo with Wales number eight Aaron Wainwright dropping to the bench, meaning a change of numbers in the back row for both Taine Basham and Sean Lonsdale.

South Wales Argus: STARTER: Centre Sio Tomkinson last played in mid-DecemberSTARTER: Centre Sio Tomkinson last played in mid-December (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Centre Sio Tomkinson makes his first appearance of 2024 after a neck injury suffered in December while Dane Blacker starts at scrum-half, with up-and-coming Che Hope his back-up.

Perhaps with one eye on the home game against Connacht a week on Saturday, loosehead Rhodri Jones, hooker Elliot Dee, Hughes and Williams don’t feature in the matchday squad.

Rodrigo Martinez and James Benjamin get starting opportunities while full-back Jordan Williams is on the bench and could feature for the first time since the Boxing Day debacle at Cardiff.

Benetton have rotated their squad ahead of a six-day turnaround to a crucial clash at play-off rivals Ulster which is followed by the Challenge Cup semi-final at Gloucester.

Nonetheless, they boast plenty of talent in their squad with Italy captain Michele Lamaro leading the charge from the back row.

Benetton: Rhyno Smith; Leonardo Marin, Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Onisi Ratave; Tomas Albornoz, Andy Uren; Mirco Spagnolo, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Giosué Zilocchi, Scott Scrafton, Riccardo Favretto, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (captain), Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: Bautista Bernasconi, Ivan Nemer, Tiziano Pasquali, Gideon Koegelenberg, Edoardo Iachizzi, Alessandro Izekor, Dewaldt Duvenage Jacob Umaga.

Dragons: Cai Evans; Rio Dyer, Sio Tomkinson, Aneurin Owen, Jared Rosser; Will Reed, Dane Blacker; Rodrigo Martinez, James Benjamin, Luke Yendle, Ben Carter, George Nott, Dan Lydiate (captain), Sean Lonsdale, Taine Basham.

Replacements: Brodie Coghlan, Aki Seiuli, Dmitri Arhip, Harri Keddie, Aaron Wainwright, Che Hope, Joe Westwood, Jordan Williams.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)

Dragons unavailable list (13): Harri Ackerman (leg), Oli Andrew (hamstring), Leon Brown (knock), Chris Coleman (calf), Lloyd Fairbrother (calf), Ollie Griffiths (elbow), Ashton Hewitt (knee), Barny Langton-Cryer (knee), Angus O’Brien (arm), Bradley Roberts (back), Matthew Screech (knock), Ryan Woodman (thumb), George Young (pec).