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Preview: Dragons v Glasgow Warriors

21st February 2014 11:10

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Mike Cusack

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Mike Cusack returns to Glasgow Warriors action on Sunday after fourteen months out to take on the Dragons at Rodney Parade.

The 29-year-old prop has been on the sidelines with a shoulder injury since December 2012, but returns to the Warriors starting line-up for the trip to Newport.

Ruaridh Jackson moves from fly-half to full-back, with Niko Matawalu switching to scrum-half and Henry Pyrgos named amongst the replacements..

Lee Jones continues on the right wing, while Byron McGuigan returns from injury and lines up on the opposite side, in place of Rory Hughes, who drops to the bench.

Mark Bennett and Richie Vernon continue in the centres, while 21-year-old Finn Russell makes only his second start for the club and first at fly-half, after impressing as a substitute against Cardiff Blues last weekend.

In the pack Cusack makes his first start of the season at tight-head in place of Ed Kalman, while Jerry Yanuyanutawa replaces Gordon Reid at loose-head and Dougie Hall starts at hooker, in place of the injured Pat MacArthur.

Jonny Gray comes into the second-row for Tom Ryder and he'll partner Fijian Leone Nakarawa in the engine room.

The backrow is unchanged with Tyrone Holmes starting at openside, Rob Harley at blindside and captain Josh Strauss at number 8.

American centre Folau Niua has once again been named amongst the replacements and could make his debut for club from the bench.

"We were really pleased to win down at Cardiff last weekend and there were plenty of positives which we can take into our game on Sunday," said head coach Gregor Townsend.

"The Dragons have already beaten us at home this season, so we know how big a challenge we face at Rodney Parade.

They are a well organised team and are tough to play against, they also have a very good home record, having only lost twice since last March, so we know we'll have to play well to come away with a positive result.

"Mike (Cusack) has worked extremely hard to get back fit and has been training really well. It's great news for the club that he can now return to action at a crucial period of the season."

Meanwhile,39-year-old Duncan Bell has returned to rugby with the Dragons until the end of the season along with ex-Scotland international Bruce Douglas who is on loan from Bristol RFC. They are both included in this weekend's squad to face Glasgow Warriors.

There have been six changes to the team that took on Leinster last week with two of these being positional. 26-year-old Rhys Jones gets his second start of the season for the Dragons as he takes on the role of full-back. He is joined in the back three alongside wingers Matthew Pewtner and Will Harries who both retain their places from the clash against Leinster. The centre pairing of Pat Leach and Ashley Smith also remains unchanged along with Jason Tovey as fly-half and Richie Rees as scrum-half.

In the front row there is one change made as experienced Duncan Bell makes his first start for the Welsh region alongside hooker T. Rhys Thomas and prop Owen Evans. Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs returns to the fold after being released from the Wales team, he is partnered alongside Cory Hill in the second-row. The back row takes on the form of Jevon Groves, Nic Cudd and Lewis Evans moves to number eight.

There have been five changes made to the bench as Hugh Gustafson, Phil Price, Bruce Douglas, Ieuan jones and Dorian Jones are all slotted in alongside Matthew Screech, Wayne Evans and Ross Wardle.

Form: Newport Gwent Dragons only victory in their last five PRO12 matches came at home to Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day.

The Dragons have lost only twice at Rodney Parade in the PRO12 since last March, both against Irish Provinces - Leinster and Munster.

Glasgow Warriors' 27-20 victory at Cardiff on Saturday set a new record for successive away victories in the tournament - seven.

The Warriors have lost only one of their last eight visits to Wales in the PRO12: 6-29 at the Scarlets in April 2013.

Dragons were victorious 23-8 when they visited Scotstoun in round 8 but have not achieved a season's double over the Scotsmen since season 2006/07.

The Warriors are unbeaten in their last three visits to Rodney Parade in all tournaments.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Rhys Jones, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Andrew Coombs (c), 3 Duncan Bell, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Phil Price, 18 Bruce Douglas, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Dorian Jones, 23 Ross Wardle.

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Mark Bennett, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Josh Strauss (c), 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Jerry Yanuyanutawa
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 James Eddie, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Folau Niua, 23 Rory Hughes

Date: Sunday 23rd February
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 1430 (local and GMT)
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Ita)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas, Martyn Lewis (both Wal)

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