12:20pm Thursday 5th September 2013
By Chris Kirwan
LOCK Matthew Screech will partner captain Andrew Coombs in the Newport Gwent Dragons second row against Ulster tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.15pm).
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a rapid, and unexpected, rise after being released by Cardiff Blues at the end of last season.
He penned a deal with Bedwas in the Premiership but caught the eye of the Dragons, who promptly took over his contract.
Screech started the pre-season friendly against Bath and will be handed the number 4 jersey for the RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Ulster at Rodney Parade.
Jevon Groves is given the nod at blindside while new director of rugby Lyn Jones has plumped for a half-back pairing of Richie Rees and Jason Tovey, who arrived this summer from Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues respectively.
Tighthead Franciso Chaparro, back row Netani Talei and fly-half Kris Burton are poised for Dragons debuts off the bench.
Dragons: D Evans, T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos, J Tovey, R Rees; A Coundley, R Thomas, D Way, M Screech, A Coombs (captain), J Groves, N Cudd, L Evans. Replacements: H Gustafson, P Price, F Chaparro, A Jones, N Talei, J Evans, K Burton, R Wardle.
PADDY Jackson will pull the strings for an Ulster side denied the services of a raft of their stars.
The Ireland fly-half starts for last year’s runners-up, who still boast a strong side despite a lengthy list of absentees.
Captain Johann Muller and Dan Tuohy form a formidable second row partnership while a great deal of responsibility is on the shoulders of Chris Henry in the back row in the absence of powerhouse number eight Nick Williams, who has returned to New Zealand for family reasons.
Ulster are also without Springboks half-back Ruan Pienaar, hooker Rory Best and wing Tommy Bowe following their Lions exertions, former All Black tighthead John Afoa and Ireland internationals Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Stephen Ferris.
Ulster: J Payne, A Trimble, L Marshall, C Farrell, D McIlwaine, P Jackson, P Marshall, C Black, R Herring, R Lutton, J Muller (captain), D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, R Wilson. Replacements: N Annett, T Court, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, S Doyle, I Porter, J McKinney, D Cave.
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