Planet Rugby

Preview: Dragons v Northampton

24th January 2014 09:58

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Netani Talei for Dragons

Number eight: Netani Talei

The Dragons have named three of Wales' U20 stars in their starting line-up that will take on Northampton in the LV= Cup fixture at Rodney Parade.

Elliot Dee, James Benjamin and Luc Jones all start for the region in a new-look team of youth and experience for the men of Gwent.

Dee, who makes his ninth appearance for the region, commented: "I feel pretty confident in the team. I feel a lot more relaxed now compared to how I felt before. I am very confident in my ability and just want to show the coaches what I can do."

"Northampton are going to come at us with a big driving game. They have a fast attacking line and big centres so they are going to turn on the power game against us. As a team everyone will be attacking the game against the Saints. Personally I want to do my best to impress Byron (Hayward) so that I am included in the U20s team."

Including the three U20s stars director of rugby, Lyn Jones, has made ten changes to the starting line-up. Dan Evans keeps the full-back position from last week and is joined in the back three by wingers Matthew Pewtner and Will Harries. The centre pairing takes on the shape of Pat Leach and Ashley Smith, whilst the half-back positions are taken up by Jason Tovey who returns from an injury he sustained against Bath Rugby and youngster Jones.

The front row takes on a different form with Phil Price, Dee and Nathan Buck. The second row takes the shape of youngster Cory Hill and long-standing Dragon Adam Jones. The back see the return of Lewis Evans to skipper, U20s star Benjamin and Fiji's Netani Talei.

Meanwhile, Saints have handed Phil Dowson the captain's armband for Saturday's trip.

The Saints take on the Dragons sitting top of Pool 4, but with results being compared against teams in their own pool, not against the teams that they are playing, it is important for the travellers to maintain their 100 percent record in their hunt for the semi-finals.

With nearly 20 players unavailable due to either injury or international call-up the Saints coaches have made a number of changes to the match squad which beat Castres.

James Wilson returns for the first time since early December, with Ben Nutley another returnee from medium-term injury. Dom Waldouck and Tom Stephenson renew their partnership in the centres, while GJ Van Velze, Teimana Harrison, Ross McMillan, Rob Verbakel, Matt Williams and Alex Day all come back into the match squad.

There are two potential debutants on the bench; England U20 loosehead prop Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and tighthead prop Adam Parkins, who has been a regular at Moseley.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Luc Jones, 8 Netani Talei, 7 James Benjamin, 6 Lewis Evans (c), 5 Adam Jones, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 T. Rhys Thomas, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Joe Mills, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Ross Wardle.

Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Fa'atoina Autagavaia, 10 Glenn Dickson, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson (capt), 6 Teimana Harrison, 5 Christian Day, 4 Rob Verbakel, 3 Gareth Denman, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 18 Adam Parkins 19 Ben Nutley 20 Matt Williams, 21 Alex Day, 22 Sam Olver 23 George Pisi.

Referee: Andrew Small (England)
Assistant referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Daniel Jones (Wales)
Television match official: Derek Bevan (Wales)
Timekeeper: Hopkin Thomas (Wales)
Assessor: Les Peard (Wales)

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