3:48pm Wednesday 19th March 2014
By Chris Kirwan
WALES star Taulupe Faletau is set to be a supersub for Newport Gwent Dragons against Connacht on Sunday afternoon but influential hooker Rhys Thomas faces three weeks on the sidelines.
Number eight Faletau has been given time off by his region this week after playing every minute of the Six Nations campaign with his exploits earning a place on then 16-man shortlist for player of the championship.
The 23-year-old back row forward will link up with his Rodney Parade teammates for their final training session and is poised to be among the replacements for the home RaboDirect Pro12 encounter (kick-off 3.05pm).
However, the region will be without the services of former Wales hooker Thomas after he broke a bone in his hand in the 38-8 defeat to Ulster in Belfast at the end of February.
The 30-year-old has gone under the knife and will miss the Connacht clash, the trip to Zebre a week on Saturday and potentially the home encounter with Edinburgh on Thursday, April 3. Elliot Dee, Sam Parry and Hugh Gustafson will battle to be Thomas' replacement.
The Dragons will be captained against Connacht by lock Andrew Coombs who is back with the squad after playing for Wales against Ireland, France and England in the Six Nations.
"It's good to be back with the boys," said the 29-year-old, who returned to the Dragons pack in the home win against Glasgow in between the France and England Tests.
"It's been a bit of a stop-start season for me; I didn't play much in the autumn while in camp with Wales, then it was back to the Dragons, then back off for the Six Nations.
"I am happy to be back now and my focus is playing well with the Dragons and hopefully leading the side to a victory on Sunday."
The Dragons' back three options are boosted by the returns of full-back Dan Evans following a five-week suspension for a tip tackle and wing Tom Prydie, who has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury against Bath in January.
Tighthead prop Nathan Buck has recovered from illness to feature in the extended squad and will attempt to displace either Duncan Bell or Bruce Douglas from the matchday 23.
Dragons squad: D Evans, W Harries, M Pewtner, T Prydie, L Robling, R Wardle, J Dixon, P Leach, A Smith, K Burton, J Tovey, R Rees, W Evans, L Jones, A Coundley, O Evans, P Price, N Williams, E Dee, H Gustafson, S Parry, N Buck, B Douglas, D Bell, A Coombs, M Screech, R Sidoli, J Groves, N Cudd, L Evans, D Waters, T Faletau, I Jones, N Talei.
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