NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have been hit by a crop of injuries at just the wrong time when they are chasing a place in the Magners League play-offs. The number of players unavailable for Sunday’s game against Glasgow at Firhill runs into double figures with three more going down this week, on top of which there have been two fitness scares. It means coach Paul Turner can’t name a team until at least tomorrow, and he was watching last night’s Premier Division clash between Newport and Cardiff.
Wales flanker Dan Lydiate was ruled out for the rest of the season after their superb victory over the Ospreys when he damaged ankle ligaments, limping off before half-time. Wing Aled Brew’s ankle injury is more serious than first though after he departed near the end of the Ospreys game.
“We are waiting for more info, but it could be long term,” said Turner. If Brew is also sidelined for the remaining four matches it will be a huge blow for he has been in great form, the Dragons’ leading try scorer this season with seven. And also missing Sunday’s match in Scotland is leading centre Ashley Smith who took a knock against Connacht the week before last and though he played against the Ospreys he is still not 100%.
The trio join Joe Bearman (groin), Adam Jones (thumb), Lewis Evans (hand), James Harris (knee), Duane Goodfield (knee) and Danny Lee (shoulder) on the injured list.
There could be a real crisis at hooker for captain Tom Willis has gone down with a flu bug while Steve Jones is suffering from a hip problem, though on the bench for the last few games, and Goodfield has a damaged knee. Cross Keys captain Lloyd Burns has been drafted into a 26-man Dragons squad. The situation is hardly any better in the back row - Grant Webb is also out because of an important domestic commitment. Five players not considered in that one area - against the best back row unit in the UK.
James Thomas becomes the second Wales U20 player to be included in the squad, joining Toby Faletau, while Newport captain Andrew Coombs also figures again, as does lock Andrew Brown. And with Smith out, Adam Hughes and Pat Leach, who have been playing for Newport, are brought in.
“We are trying to keep our feet on the ground because we haven’t achieved anything yet,” said Turner. “The players have given the supporters something to shout about, but it’s going to be a tough game at Firhill and we’ve got to back up what we did against the Ospreys. It’s been a happy hunting ground for us up there, but they’ve got a lot of good players and are similar to us in that they play well for each other and have a great work ethic.”
Turner also revealed he had received a congratulatory message from opposite number Nigel Davies, the Scarlets coach, after the Ospreys result. “I had a text from Nigel, people think we all hate each other but we don’t,” he said.
Dragons squad: M Thomas, W Harries, A Hughes, M Watkins, T Riley, R Gomer-Davies, P Leach, R Fussell, J Tovey, J Arlidge, W Evans, J Leadbeater, H Gustafson, T Willis, S Jones, L Burns, P Palmer, B Castle, R Sidoli, L Charteris, A Brown, H MacDonald, A Coombs, T Faletau, G Thomas, J Thomas.