RaboDirect PRO12 preview: Dragons host Connacht
Last Updated: 23/03/14 7:52am
Welsh lock Andrew Coombs returns to the Dragons starting XV for Sunday's PRO12 clash with Connacht at Rodney Parade.
Skipper Coombs has made one appearance for the men of Gwent during his international duties and helped them gain a crucial victory against Glasgow Warriors.
He features in a starting line-up showing ten changes and one positional switch to the side that faced Ulster at the end of February.
Full-back Daniel Evans returns to the fold after being banned for five weeks for a dangerous tackle whilst playing against Newcastle Falcons.
"It's a big relief being able to play this weekend; no one likes to be out with a ban. I've had a good five weeks of hard training so I just can't wait to get back onto the field now and play," said Evans.
"I feel refreshed after this time out and hopefully I can bring some energy to the game."
Evans is joined in the back three by Tom Prydie, who is returning from an ankle injury, and Will Harries. The centre pairing takes on the form of young gun Ross Wardle and Under 20s star Jack Dixon.
Jason Tovey returns from injury to take up the place of fly-half and international scrum-half Richie Rees retains his place at number nine.
The front row has one change to it as Hugh Gustafson steps into the position of hooker. He is joined by props Owen Evans and Bruce Douglas.
Lewis Evans is moved from number eight to blindside flanker and is joined in the back row by Nic Cudd and Netani Talei. There have been seven changes made to the replacements bench.
Connacht go into the game having won their last three PRO12 fixtures but have not won four in a row in the competition since the 2002/03 season.
Head coach Pat Lam has made no changes to his side for the first time this season. Flanker John Muldoon will captain the side while Robbie Henshaw is fresh from Ireland's success to start at full-back.
The league's highest point scorer Dan Parks starts at fly-half in an otherwise all-Irish qualified squad this weekend.
On the bench, prop Ronan Loughney returns from injury while Darragh Leader is brought in among the replacement backs.
"It's been a while since our last outing but we're in good shape after training hard during the break," said Lam.
"Coming off the back of three straight wins gives us confidence but we're very much aware that we haven't won four in a row in quite some time. We also have to look at the threat of the Dragons who are a strong outfit at Rodney Parade. They've only been narrowly beaten by Leinster and Munster at home. If you look at all the games they play there, their line speed is faster, their contact is faster."
Dragons: 15 D Evans, 14 Prydie, 13 Wardle, 12 Dixon, 11 Harries, 10 Tovey, 9 Rees, 1 O Evans, 2 Gustafson, 3 Douglas, 4 Coombs (c), 5 Sidoli, 6 L Evans, 7 Cudd, 8 Talei.
Replacements: 16 Dee, 17 Price, 18 Bell, 19 Screech, 20 Faletau, 21 W Evans, 22 Smith, 23 Pewtner.
Connacht:15 Henshaw, 14 O'Halloran, 13 Griffin, 12 McSharry, 11 Carr, 10 Parks, 9 Marmion, 1 Buckley, 2 Harris-Wright, 3 Ah You, 4 Muldowney, 5 Kearney, 6 Muldoon (c), 7 Masterson, 8 McKeon.
Replacements: 16 Heffernan, 17 Loughney, 18 White, 19 Swift, 20 Browne, 21 Murphy, 22 Nikora, 23 Leader.
Fri 4th Sep
Connacht0 - 0Dragons
Edinburgh0 - 0Leinster
Ulster0 - 0Ospreys
Sat 5th Sep
Glasgow Warriors0 - 0Scarlets
Munster0 - 0Treviso
Sun 6th Sep
Cardiff Blues0 - 0Zebre
Fri 11th Sep
Treviso0 - 0Edinburgh
Dragons0 - 0Zebre
Glasgow Warriors0 - 0Connacht
Sat 12th Sep
Scarlets0 - 0Ulster
Leinster0 - 0Cardiff Blues
Sun 13th Sep
Ospreys0 - 0Munster
Fri 2nd Oct
Edinburgh0 - 0Ospreys
Munster0 - 0Glasgow Warriors
Ulster0 - 0Treviso
Sat 3rd Oct
Leinster0 - 0Dragons
Connacht0 - 0Cardiff Blues
Sun 4th Oct
Zebre0 - 0Scarlets
Fri 16th Oct
Treviso0 - 0Ospreys
Connacht0 - 0Zebre
Glasgow Warriors0 - 0Dragons
Scarlets0 - 0Leinster
Edinburgh0 - 0Ulster
Sat 17th Oct
Munster0 - 0Cardiff Blues
Fri 23rd Oct
Zebre0 - 0Edinburgh
Scarlets0 - 0Munster
Dragons0 - 0Treviso
Ulster0 - 0Cardiff Blues
Leinster0 - 0Glasgow Warriors
Sat 24th Oct
Ospreys0 - 0Connacht
RaboDirect PRO12 2013/14 R17
John Muldoon scored two tries as Connacht cruised to a 24-8 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
Munster maintained their 100 per cent home record in the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 14-3 victory over Benetton Treviso.
Glasgow boosted their RaboDirect PRO12 top four hopes with a hard-fought 14-6 win over Scarlets.