Preview: Dragons v Ulster

Date published: November 6 2015

Wales U20 star Ollie Griffiths will make his PRO12 debut against Ulster on Sunday at Rodney Parade.

The 20-year-old flanker has ten appearances under his belt for the Dragons but will make his first PRO12 start for the Welsh Region in front of a home crowd.

Griffiths, who was named Premiership side Newport RFC captain last season, is one of five personnel changes that have been made to the team that lost out to the Scarlets last weekend.

Full-back Carl Meyer gets the nod and joins the back three alongside wingers Ashton Hewitt and Nick Scott. The centre pairing remains unchanged for the third week running as Adam Hughes and Adam Warren retain their places. 23-year-old Dorian Jones is named as fly-half and is joined in the halfbacks by scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.

The front row sees one change made to it as prop Shaun Knight joins Boris Stankovich and hooker Elliot Dee. The second row also has one change made to it as Cory Hill joins Rynard Landman. The back row includes PRO12 debutant Ollie Griffiths who joins Ed Jackson and Taulupe Faletau.

The replacements bench has six changes made to it as Brok Harris, Matthew Screech, Lewis Evans, Charlie Davies, Jason Tovey and Ross Wardle join Rhys Buckley and Phil Price.

Director of Rugby, Lyn Jones understands how important performance is this weekend if the Dragons are to take their third consecutive win at Rodney Parade on Sunday. He commented: "We played some attractive rugby last season and the season before but so far we haven't been able to get the ball through three pairs of hands.

"That's something very much in our mind because if we are to be successful then we have to score at least 25 points. You are not going to do that by holding onto the ball all the time, the game has to have some width.

"It's something we are aware of and something we are working towards improving – if we are going to beat Ulster we have got to play."

Jones continued: "We didn't kick smartly or chase well against the Scarlets and lost the kicking battle. Only one kick ended on a positive note for us.

"Ulster are the team in the league who kick the most and will drag the game into a kicking duel. We cannot afford to play rugby on the tail end of a really good kick.

"We have to play on the front foot when circumstances arise and need to be patient in the kicking battle."

Meanwhile, Rory Best and Ruan Pienaar return to the Ulster squad for Sunday's clash. Coach Les Kiss has made four personnel changes and three positional changes to the team that lost narrowly to Munster last weekend.

Peter Nelson returns to the side at fullback and is joined in the back three by Sammy Arnold and Rory Scholes, who replaces an injured Andrew Trimble. Paul Marshall and Stuart McCloskey are retained at scrum-half and inside centre respectively.

Up front Kyle McCall comes into the team to replace Andrew Warwick at loosehead prop, joining acting captain Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row. Dan Tuohy joins Franco van der Merwe in the second row, with Stephen Mulholland, who makes his first start for Ulster, named alongside Chris Henry and Robbie Diack in the back row. Diack returns to the starting line up having recovered from a muscle tear in his thigh sustained against Treviso on October 2nd.
Ulster skipper, Best, will play his first game for the province since May when he comes off the bench. He is named alongside front row cover Ricky Lutton and Bronson Ross. Lewis Stevenson and Sean Reidy are named as forward replacements and World Cup semi-finalist Pienaar is named with Ian Humphreys and Craig Gilroy as backline cover.

Ulster enter the game in fifth place in the PRO12 league with 18 points – three places ahead of Sunday's opponents.

Form: All of Newport Gwent Dragons’ six matches in the PRO12 this season have been won by the home side. The Men from Gwent have won their last five PRO12 encounters at Rodney Parade since Connacht beat them there in February. Ulster’s six PRO12 games to date have likewise gone with home field advantage. The Ulstermen have not been victorious away from home since a trip to Connacht in April. The most recent occasion that an away side has won a fixture between these two teams came when Ulster visited Rodney Parade in October 2012. Since 2006 the Ulstermen have won on two of their eight visits to the venue.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Ed Jackson, 5 Rynard Landman (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Boris Stankovich
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Ross Wardle.

Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Rory Scholes, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Sammy Arnold, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Stephen Mulholland, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Craig Gilroy

Date: Sunday, November 8
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)|
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)