Dragons' Faletau boost after Wales confusion
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have been given an unexpected boost for their RaboDirect Pro12 clash with unbeaten European heavyweights Ulster after getting in a muddle about their dates.
The region believed that they would be without influential number eight Toby Faletau for Friday’s encounter at Rodney Parade.
With Wales heading for a training camp in Poland ahead of the autumn Tests this weekend, the Dragons expected to be without the 21-year-old.
After last Saturday’s Amlin Challenge Cup defeat to Bayonne head coach Darren Edwards spoke about the importance of the rest of the squad stepping in to fill the sizeable hole left by Faletau.
However, that challenge can wait until next week’s trip to Glasgow after the 17-times capped forward was given the green light to don the number 8 jersey against Ulster.
“We got our days mixed up if I am honest,” admitted Dragons director of rugby Robert Beale.
“There is a 13-day rule in terms of Wales players being released for international duty.
“Working back from November 10 takes us to Sunday so Toby is fit and he is available for selection.
“It’s a massive boost because he played exceptionally well against Bayonne and is starting to hit top form in time for Wales.
“He’s a very important part of our squad and performs every time he is on the pitch for us.”
Faletau’s presence in the squad is particularly welcome because captain Lewis Evans will face a late fitness test after suffering a groin injury against Bayonne last weekend.
If he fails to get the green light then Jevon Groves would slot in at openside with Nic Cudd on the bench.
Owen Evans, who has made a real impact at loosehead since signing from Llandovery, suffered up a bang to his shoulder but should be fine to make his second start.
The Dragons, who are second from bottom in the Pro12 table, will be looking for a rare success against the Irish provinces.
They have won just one of their last 14 encounters – against the Ulstermen in September of last year.
Ulster head over the Irish Sea with a squad packed full of seasoned internationals.
Up front they boast hooker Rory Best, prop John Afoa, back row forwards Nick Williams and Stephen Ferris while they can call on Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave behind with Springbok Ruan Pienaar pulling the strings.
They have won just once at Rodney Parade since 2006 but the table toppers will be hot favourites with the bookies to make it eight wins from eight games this season.
Dragons: T Prydie, T Chavhanga, H Amos, W Harries, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, A Smith, P Leach, L Robling, Steffan Jones, J Evans, L Davies, O Evans, P Price, N Williams, Steve Jones, S Parry, N Nuck, D Way, A Jones, I Nimmo, R Sidoli, J Groves, T Brown, T Faletau, L Evans (captain), N Cudd.
Ulster: J Payne, C Gilroy, T Bowe, A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, P Wallace, P Jackson, N O’Connor, R Pienaar, P Marshall, R Best, N Brady, T Court, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, A Macklin, J Afoa, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, I Henderson, S Ferris, M McComish, C Henry (captain), N Williams, R Wilson.