NEWPORT Gwent Dragons look to run Bordeaux-Bègles ragged tonight and move their jumbo pack around in the field in their must-win Amlin Challenge Cup clash.
Only a victory at Rodney Parade will keep the Dragons in the tournament as they target making the competition’s quarter-finals for only the second time.
The region make eight changes from the side which narrowly lost at home to RaboDirect PRO12 contenders Munster 18-14 seven days ago.
A speedy back division outlines the Dragons’ intent to take the beefy French outfit on out wide and unleash wings Matthew Pewtner and Wales new boy Hallam Amos, the 19-year-old winning his first cap in last month’s victory over Tonga in Cardiff.
This evening’s showdown is one the hosts can certainly win although it won’t be easy against a Bordeaux-Bègles side who are tenth in the Top 14 with six wins and seven defeats in their 13 league matches so far.
But their 15-6 home defeat to Bath in their opening Amlin Challenge Cup group encounter has severely dented their hopes of progressing into the last eight.
A team without stars, they have however shown what they are capable of this season with home successes over current French champions Castres (21-20) and record four-time Heineken Cup winners Toulouse (31-25).
Forwards coach Kingsley Jones stressed how the Dragons will look to exploit Bordeaux-Bègles’ defence which he believes is suspect, although he realises they will have to work hard to compete for possession against their powerful forwards.
“I have watched a fair bit of them and I expect a very disruptive game,” he said. “They try and stop you at source with their scrum and line-out.
“They are very good at their lineout defence. Typically of lower end Top 14, they are very set-piece orientated.
“But they can cause you problems. They have scored a lot of tries in the league, but their defence isn’t great.
“We want to try and play some rugby against them, move them around, but we have to get parity up front first and foremost, otherwise they will cause you big problems.”
Andrew Coombs is back to captain the Dragons in the second row after missing all of the region’s November’s games through his involvement with the Wales squad for their four-match autumn international series.
The 29-year-old will be talking to tonight’s referee, Scotland’s Andrew McMenemy, about what he claims are some of the opposition pack’s unlawful lineout tactics.
“If I’m honest, a lot of their driving lineout is illegal – they use a lot of blocking and holding in the air which they shouldn’t be doing,” Coombs said.
“Hopefully the referee will manage things well and we can stop their powerful drives. I will speak to the ref before the game, no doubt about it.”
Newport Gwent Dragons: D Evans, M Pewtner, P Leach, A Smith, H Amos, J Tovey, W Evans, H Gustafson, S Parry, D Way, A Coombs (capt), M Screech, L Evans, N Cudd, T Faletau. Replacements: E Dee, O Evans, N Buck, R Sidoli, I Jones, R Rees, K Burton, R Wardle.
Bordeaux-Bègles: J Tuculet, R Lilomaiava, C Brousse, T Lacroix, R Carballo, R Lonca, M Saubusse, J Poirot, B Auzqui, B Sa, C Treloar, A Fakate, G Gibouin (capt), M Graham, P Luafutu. Replacements: J-C Fidinde, L DelBoulbes, P Toetu, A Jaulhac, J-B Lespinasse, B Serin, G Queheille, J-B Lamotte.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)