Brian McLaughlin has named a preliminary 32 man squad for this Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 fixture against the Dragons at Rodney Parade (kick off 7.05pm).
Darren Cave (hamstring) and Ian Humphreys (shoulder) have responded well to treatment and are fit enough to be named in the extended squad.
Jared Payne was forced off with a dead leg in the loss to the Ospreys on Sunday put is expected to shake that off despite the quick turn around between matches. Andi Kyriacou also left the field early after suffering a neck injury during a scrum.
Ulster’s 100% winning start to the season came to an end with the 32-14 defeat at the Ospreys. The squad will be looking for a greatly reduced penalty count during their second trip to Wales in a week, which would go a long way to getting the campaign back on track.
Dragons have had a less impressive opening to the season, winning just one game in four – a 23-14 success at home to Aironi in round three. The Dragons’ only reversal at Rodney Parade in their last five matches in this tournament was 13-20 to Ulster back in May.
Forwards: Jerry Cronin, Conor Carey, Paddy McAllister, Declan Fitzpatrick, Adam Macklin, Andi Kyriacou, John Burns, Niall Annett, Nigel Brady, Tim Barker, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Neil McComb, Pedrie Wannenburg, Mike McComish, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack
Backs: Paul Marshall, Blane McIlroy, Ian Porter, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, James McKinney, Luke Marshall, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Craig Gilroy, Conor Gaston, Jared Payne, Adam D’Arcy.
The team announcement on Thursday should be interesting as it should give an indication of who is carrying the blame for Ulster’s woeful forward performance and huge penalty count on Sunday. However there are also players scheduled for rotation so we might not get an entirely clear picture.
Humphreys and Cave should return to the starting line up if fully recovered and Jared Payne will no doubt be looking for action after being pretty anonymous last week while he was on the pitch. I’d like to see Spence rested and Cave and Whitten in the centre with Gaston on the wing opposite Gilroy.
However we all know that the problems were not with the backs but rather with the forwards and speaking personally I’d sent the same side pack back out with the clear instructions to shape up or ship out or words to that effect, fairly confident in the belief that tehy could not play as badly or as stupidly two weeks in a row. Cooler heads than mine will prevail and I expect to see Kyriacou, Cronin, Stevenson and Henry all benched or rested for this one.
Latest news from Dragon World is that we will not be getting t osee Jamie Smith in action against Ulster with our latest export out for a further four weeks. The Dragons squad is shown below.
Newport-Gwent Dragons Squad
Backs: Martyn Thomas, Matthew Pewtner, Mike Pool, Tonderai Chavhanga, Geraint O’Driscoll, Ashley Smith, Tom Riley, Matthew Jones, Jason Tovey, Joe Bedford, Wayne Evans. Forwards; Andrew Coombs, Darren Waters, Lewis Evans, Jevon Groves, Gavin Thomas, Rob Sidoli, Adam Jones, Sam Parry, Tom Willis, Rhys Buckley, Nathan Williams, Nathan Buck, Phil Price, Hugh Gustafson