Preview: Dragons v Aironi

Date published: September 16 2011

Dragons full-back Martyn Thomas returns to league action at Rodney Parade on Saturday as the Men of Gwent take on Italian side Aironi.

Dragons full-back Martyn Thomas returns to league action at Rodney Parade on Saturday as the Men of Gwent take on Italian outfit Aironi.

Head Coach Darren Edwards has made three changes to the side that took on Leinster last weekend. Wayne Evans and Lewis Evans come into the starting line-up, replacing Joe Bedford and Hugo Ellis respectively whilst Dan Way comes in for the injured Ben Castle and Andrew Coombs moves from blindside to eight.

“Although we were disappointed with the results over the last two weeks, to keep things in perspective we are missing 7 out of our first 15 at the moment through international call-ups and injury and with our squad that is a lot to accommodate,” said Edwards.

“When you think that Rhys Buckley, Nathan Williams and Mike Poole all got their first taste of professional rugby over the last fortnight it shows that there is a great deal to come from this squad.

“There are a lot of positives to take out of our trips to Ireland. We had a very competitive back row with 2 international players to come back into the squad. Andrew Coombs has been very impressive in particular.”

Meanwhile, Samoan winger Sinoti Sinoti is in the starting line-up chosen by Rowland Phillips as Aironi go to Newport to visit the Dragons.

In the first match at the newly-improved Rodney Parade, the New Zealand-born Samoan international will make his debut one week after his arrival in Italy, and after scoring the winning try for Hawke's Bay in the ITM Championship Final. Sinoti replaces Riccardo Pavan, who starts from the bench.

Gilberto Pavan is another newcomer to the squad as he starts for the first time this season at centre in place of injured Roberto Quartaroli. South African flanker Frans Viljoen will also make his first start of the season at blindside flanker with Josh Sole among the replacements.

New Zealand scrum-half Tyson Keats could make his first appearance for Aironi if he comes off the bench.

Form: Dragons are without a point after the first two rounds of RaboDirect PRO12 play, but both of those matches have been away from home. The Dragons have won three of their last four games at Rodney Parade. The Men from Gwent won three of their four encounters with Italian sides last season. Aironi have picked up losing bonus points in two of their last three matches, and tallied just three league points on their travels during the whole of last season. Dragons won both previous encounters with Aironi, whilst the most recent Italian team to won at Rodney Parade were Treviso in the European Cup in December 2007.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Pat Leach, 11 Mike Poole, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Andrew Coombs, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Dan Way, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Darren Waters , 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Joe Bedford, 22 Matthew Jones, 23 Matthew Pewtner.

Aironi: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gilberto Pavan, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Nicola Cattina, 6 Frans Viljoen; 5 George Biagi, 4 Joshua Furno; 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Roberto Santamaria (capt), 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Romano, 19 Josh Sole, 20 Simone Favaro, 21 Tyson Keats, 22 Alberto Benettin, 23 Riccardo Pavan

Date: Saturday, September 17
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30GMT)
Referee: Leo Colgan (IRFU)