9:02am Wednesday 15th January 2014
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have declared that their European clash with Mogliano is far from a dead rubber – first team places are up for grabs.
The Rodney Parade region cannot qualify for the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup even if, as expected, they record a bonus point win in northern Italy.
Director of rugby Lyn Jones is set to ring the changes for the encounter with the Pool Two whipping boys, as he will in the forthcoming LV= Cup clashes against Northampton and Newcastle.
But the Dragons are not going through the motions and the carrot of a start when the RaboDirect Pro12 returns with a clash against Edinburgh has been dangled in front of those that take to the field at the Stadio Maurizio Quaggia.
"This month gives many players an opportunity, especially those that have had injuries, a chance to stake a claim for a place in the squad," said head coach Darren Edwards.
"We need to give players a chance to play; everyone is valuable in our squad and we are a new coaching team that is still learning about individuals and the direction we are going to go in.
"Players are going to be challenged to show us and their teammates what they are all about. They need to play well, so this is a meaningful fixture for us.
"There will be some involved who haven't played for a long time and the expectation from us (coaches) is that they put in good individual performances to try and break into that Pro12 team.
"They have had to be patient because we had a settled team through the Christmas period and now it's up to them to show their value.
"The best squads are those with depth and that's what we are working towards."
That is especially the case at fly-half where Jason Tovey has made 14 starts to former Italy international Kris Burton's four and Steffan Jones' one.
The Dragons are waiting for the results of a scan after Tovey suffered a knee injury against Bath last weekend.
They are hopeful that the damage won't be too severe but it opens the door for his rivals to stake a claim for the 10 jersey.
"A rugby player has to show patience at times," said Edwards. "Selection is out of their hands until they get on that field and get the chance to earn that shirt.
"I'm sure it has been difficult for Kris, who has so much experience and is used to being first choice, but both he and Steffan have been great.
"They have both trained very well and there has been a great attitude from the whole squad."
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