International second-row Luke Charteris will be at the helm once again as the Dragons take on Leinster at Rodney Parade on Sunday.
Luke Charteris will be at the helm once again as the Dragons take on Leinster in the Magners League at Rodney Parade on Sunday.
With an unchanged tight-five, back-row Danny Lydiate has been rested following his outstanding Six Nations campaign but rising star Toby Faletau comes in for a start at number eight.
Gavin Thomas has been given the all-clear to return after the jaw injury he picked up against Sale back in February and will start on the bench.
“Luke has been doing a fantastic job as our captain,” said Dragons Acting Head Coach Darren Edwards.
“Losing Tom Willis was tough on the team but Luke has stepped up – both in his personal performances but also in his leadership. He has been on great form and really leading the side from the front.”
With Pat Leach out, Tom Riley comes into the centres and young gun Matthew Pewtner joins returning U20 scrum-half Jon Evans on the bench.
“Although the result last weekend was not what we were hoping for with 5 minutes to go,” said Edwards.
“Ravenhill is a tough ground and Ulster are a strong side so to go there and really test them the way we did shows how well the players took the lessons of the previous week's trip to Gloucester and upped their game.
“Leinster may still be missing some of their Irish internationals but that hasn't stopped them winning over the last few weeks. They are a European squad with a great depth of talent so this weekend's game will be tough. All the boys want now is to get out onto the Rodney Parade field in front of our own fans and perform.”
Meanwhile, Shane Horgan returns to Leintser's starting line-up after a two month lay-off to make his 18th appearance this season. The Ireland international winger joins Luke Fitzgerald and Isa Nacewa in the back three for Sunday's game.
Eoin O'Malley partners Fergus McFadden at centre, with Isaac Boss linking up with Jonathan Sexton at half-back.
Leo Cullen leads the team and starts at second row alongside Devin Toner, with ex-Gonzaga College SJ duo Kevin McLaughlin and Dominic Ryan joining Rhys Ruddock in the back row.
Internationals Jamie Heaslip, Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan are named amongst a replacements bench which features a mix of youth and experience.
“Rodney Parade is a very difficult place to play,” said Leinster Skills and Kicking Coach Richie Murphy
“Over the last two years we have shipped reasonably big defeats so I think this week it will be about us getting ourselves right, being mentally ready for the game and with the league position that we're in at the moment it's a 'must-win' game for us.
“They have threats all through their team. They're particularly strong in their back-row and they've plenty of pace out wide as well.
“At this stage of the season – I mean last year one or two teams had all but confirmed their places in the semi finals – any one from six teams can realistically make the semi finals.
“So, with that in mind, we're very conscious that each game matters now and out of the last five games, we're going to have to try and win them all.”
Form: Dragons are without a win in their last four matches in all competitions, but all those encounters were played away from home. At Rodney Parade the Dragons have won four in a row in the Magners League, since Scarlets defeated them there on 24 September. Leinster's only loss in their last ten games in all competitions was 3-11 at Cardiff Blues in the Magners League on 19 February. The Leinstermen are yet to win in Wales this season. The last seven encounters between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Leinster's most recent win at Rodney Parade was 23-22 on 13 April 2007.
Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Will Harries, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Tom Riley, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Luke Charteris (capt), 3 Dan Way, 2 Lloyd Burns, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Steve Jones, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Ben Castle, 19 Adam Brown, 20 Gavin Thomas, 21 Matthew Pewtner, 22 Matthew Jones, 23 Jon Evans.
Leinster:15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Stan Wright, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements:16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Simon Shawe, 19 Nathan Hines, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Dave Kearney.
Date: Sunday, March 27
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)
Assistant Referees: David Bodilly, Simon Harris (WRU)
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)