NEWPORT Gwent Dragons don’t need a spy in the Treviso camp to work out what approach the hosts will adopt in today’s RaboDirect Pro12 encounter (kick-off 6pm), writes Chris Kirwan.
Cardiff City complained to the Premier League this week that important team details had been leaked to Crystal Palace, an accusation that was denied by the Eagles.
The Dragons won’t have needed an Italian mole ahead of their trip to the Stadio Monigo – it’s glaringly obvious that Treviso will try and put the squeeze on at the set piece.
They have plumped for a powerful front row of Alberto De Marchi, Leonardo Ghiraldini, and Lorenzo Cittadini.
The trio featured in Italy’s Six Nations encounter with Wales and Aviva Premiership clubs have lured them over to England; next season loosehead De Marchi is set for Sale, hooker Ghiraldini for Leicester and tighthead Cittadini for Wasps.
Packing down behind them will be experienced Azzurri second row partnership of Antonio Pavanello and Cornelius van Zyl, who will be up against the Dragons’ rather more green pairing of Cory Hill and Matthew Screech.
The Dragons’ tight five has been under the pump for most of 2014, although things have improved since the debacle against Connacht when the Irish province scored a hat-trick of driving lineouts and a try from a five-metre scrum against the head.
The trio of Phil Price, Elliot Dee and Duncan Bell have done admirably and had the better of Edinburgh last week. They are given their third successive start today.
Director of rugby Lyn Jones will hope that his front row can gain parity and also needs his big ball carriers – Taulupe Faletau, Jack Dixon, Pat Leach and Lewis Evans – to get the Dragons on the front foot.
“It’s going to be as difficult as we want to make it this evening,” said. “We are on a par with Treviso in terms of ability but they are a vastly improved side from bygone years.
“We are looking for some inspiration from individuals to show some X-factor or elements of skill to create.
“There was lots of good in our game against Edinburgh but we were a little bit light when attacking the gain line and are trying to play around teams rather than through them.
“And some of our kicking game was very good and some of it was disastrous and cost us dearly.”
Flanker Evans will captain the Dragons after Andrew Coombs suffered a mild knee strain in training, a blow that shouldn’t lead to him missing the Easter Sunday encounter with the Ospreys at the Millennium Stadium.
Cory Hill replaces Coombs in the second row, scrum-half Wayne Evans comes in for Richie Rees and Nic Cudd has recovered from a bug to slot in at flanker at the expense of Jevon Groves.
Treviso: L McLean, L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, C Loamanu, A Esposito, M Berquist, T Botes, A De Marchi, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini, A Pavanello (captain), C Van Zyl, M Filippucci, P Derbyshire, R Barbieri. Replacements: G Maistri, M Muccignat, I Fernandez-Rouyet, V Bernabo, M Vosawai, A Sgarbi, F Semenzato, J Ambrosini
Dragons: D Evans, T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos, J Tovey, W Evans, P Price, E Dee, D Bell, C Hill, M Screech, L Evans (captain), N Cudd, T Faletau. Replacements: S Parry, O Evans, B Douglas, R Sidoli, J Groves, R Rees, K Burton, R Wardle
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)