NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will be looking for their Wales stars to make a racket when they take to the field in the Premiership Rugby 7s this evening.
The four Welsh regions have been invited to join the tournament by their English rivals and will host the first leg at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park tonight (7.15pm start).
The prize for the top two is a place at finals day at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday, August 8 against six sides from across the border.
The Dragons field three Wales internationals in their 12-strong squad – Sam Cross, Rhys Jones and Matthew Pewtner.
The latter has not featured in the shorted format for over a year but Cross, who captains the side, and Jones are key figures in the IRB World Series and narrowly missed out on selection for the Commonwealth Games.
“They were desperately unlucky not to make the Games because they have been fantastic servants for Wales over the last couple of seasons,” said Dragons sevens coach Nick Wakley.
“I am devastated for them but their leadership will be massive for us. Their communication, ability to say the right thing at the right time and how vocal they are in getting the side’s shape back is what the team needs.”
Those attributes will be especially key in defence given the lack of preparation time ahead of the tournament.
The Dragons squad did a double session on Thursday and then practised set pieces and restarts yesterday.
“The boys rocked up with a great attitude,” said Wakley. “We have managed to touch on attacking and defensive principles.
“Defence wins tournaments and if we get to a stage where we are hard to break down and recycle the ball well then we are going to be difficult to beat.
“It’s a blessing having boys with Wales sevens experience but you are not going to impose an international-standard defensive organisation with boys that have just met each other.
“We’ve got sevens, Under-20s and some Premiership players; this is an invitational set-up and you have to try and get connection and trust in a very limited amount of time.
“The boys will be strained tonight but their youth and exuberance should come to the fore and help us in defence.”
- Dragons squad: Sam Cross (captain), James Benjamin, James Thomas, Rhys Jones, Dorian Jones, Ollie Griffiths, Harri Keddie, Owen Davies, Elliot Frewen, Lewis Hudd, Jonny Lewis, Matthew Pewtner.
- Game 1 – Ospreys v Blues (7.15pm), game 2 – Dragons v Scarlets (7.40pm), game 3 – Dragons v Ospreys (8.10pm), game 4 – Blues v Scarlets (8.35pm), game 5 – Ospreys v Scarlets (9.05pm), game 6 – Dragons v Blues (9.30pm).