11:10am Wednesday 22nd February 2012
By Chris Kirwan
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons will be looking to break their RaboDirect Pro12 away duck against basement outfit Aironi on Sunday.
The Dragons have suffered eight league defeats from eight and earned just two points from a possible 40 on the road this season.
But they head to Italy in fine fettle following last weekend’s much-needed 21-10 win against Edinburgh.
With five of their eight remaining games at Rodney Parade, an away success would set the Dragons up nicely for a late season push up the table.
“The big focus is to play as we have at home; to play with pace and high tempo,” said head coach Darren Edwards.
“We may have lost against Ulster in Belfast two weeks ago but the performance was good in terms of retaining possession and playing multiple-phase rugby.
“The big step up for us is to be clinical and show a cutting edge. We need to nail the opportunities that we let slip away against Edinburgh.
“That’s a hurdle we need to get over now but I’d be more worried if we weren’t creating them.
“I think we will need to show a better final touch because I think it could be a war of attrition at Aironi and there may not be as many chances as there were last weekend.
“Two wins is a row can change things drastically and we know that we have a real opportunity this weekend.
“We need to capitalise on it but we also have to be mindful that they will be looking at the table and sensing a big chance themselves.”
The Dragons are without flanker Darren Waters, who suffered a blow to the leg in the win against Edinburgh and is replaced in the squad by Rhys Jenkins, while Royce Cadman comes in for injured lock Adam Jones.
The Aironi clash has come too soon for rib injury victim Tonderai Chavhanga but the South African international wing could return against Munster a week on Saturday.
Wayne Evans makes a timely return from a back injury given that scrum-half Jon Evans, who was on the bench against Edinburgh, is on Wales Under-20s duty.
Dragons squad: M Thomas, W Harries, A Brew, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, A Smith, L Robling, J Tovey, J Bedford, W Evans, P Price, N Williams, S Jones, S Parry, N Buck, D Way, R Cadman, R Sidoli, J Groves, H Ellis, T Brown, L Evans, R Jenkins, G Thomas.
* Aironi could be without flanker Mauro Bergamasco for this weekend’s game.
The forward, who was left out of Italy’s Six Nations squad, has been cited for striking an opponent in last Friday’s loss to the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
* The Dragons succeeded in their appeal against a decision to award Saracens a bonus-point victory for the postponed LV= Cup game on February 3.
The match has been declared as a 0-0 draw – important in terms of competition money – with the region’s suspended fine reduced from £10,000 to £5,000.
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