Dragons look to sink flying Dutchman
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have changed their back three for the first time this season in a bid to keep tabs on a flying Dutchman who is eyeing up a start with the British and Irish Lions.
Alex Cuthbert, Chris Ashton, Ben Foden and Tommy Bowe are among the leading contenders to partner shoo-in George North on the flanks against Australia next summer.
However, they could well be left on the sidelines by Edinburgh speedster Tim Visser, the man from Zeewolde who made his Scotland debut against Fiji last summer.
The Scottish side will try and unleash the 25-year-old at Rodney Parade tonight in the hope he will score his 50th try in just his fourth season with the club.
Last year when the Dragons took on Edinburgh at Murrayfield there was an incredible moment when Visser went round the outside of Tonderai Chavhanga – one of the fastest wingers in world rugby – and forced the former Springbok into a desperate tap tackle.
Tonight Adam Hughes is the man charged with the unenviable task keeping the Dutchman quiet.
Dragons head coach Darren Edwards has altered his back three for the first time this term, dropping Will Harries to the bench and putting Hughes in alongside left winger Tom Prydie and full-back Dan Evans.
“Adam will have his hands full but he is a tough competitor, he’ll stick his head guard on and away he goes,” said Edwards.
“You need that attitude against Tim Visser, who is a hell of a rugby player. He is a game breaker every week, so it’s not like it’s luck, he does it all the time.
“I definitely think that he could be a Lion because it’s hard finding out and out left wingers.”
The Dragons have returned to the 10-12-13 axis that started the first three games of the season with Steffan Jones pulling the strings at fly-half and the imposing pair of Andy Tuilagi and Pat Leach joining forces in midfield.
Tuilagi, who has dropped from last season’s 16 per cent body fat to 9 per cent, has been a hugely influential figure this season.
Things started to go to pot when he went off against Cardiff Blues with a dead leg and his introduction against Munster last weekend triggered a Dragons revival.
“It’s great to have Andy back in form, when players are hot you have to keep them out there,” said Edwards.
“Pat is also playing particularly well and it is certainly making things competitive in midfield.
“Coming into the season you probably would have said the starters would be Ashley Smith and Adam Hughes but these two came in and took their chance.”
Edinburgh hand a start to Wales scrum-half Richie Rees, who headed to Scotland from Cardiff Blues this summer along with prop John Yapp, who is on the bench. Tonight’s visitors have made a solid start to the campaign with wins against Zebre and away at Cardiff Blues supplemented by bonus points against Munster and Leinster.
Head coach Michael Bradley is looking for his backs, who boast former All Black Ben Atiga in midfield, to thrive in the face of the Dragons’ aggressive defensive policy.
“The Dragons are notoriously difficult to break down,” he said.
“Their defensive approach is quick and aggressive and puts a lot of pressure on the opposition, so the fundamentals of our game will have to be very well executed.
“We will have to be sharp and clinical to make the most of any manufactured or opportunistic chances.
“It will be very tough game.”
Dragons: D Evans, A Hughes, P Leach, A Tuilagi, T Prydie, Steffan Jones, J Evans, P Price, Steve Jones, D Way, I Nimmo, A Jones, D Lydiate, L Evans (captain), T Faletau. Replacements: S Parry, A Coundley, N Buck, J Groves, T Brown, L Davies, A Smith, W Harries.
Edinburgh: G Tonks, T Brown, N De Luca, B Atiga, T Visser, H Leonard, R Rees, A Jacobsen, A Titterrell, G Cross, R McAlpine, S Cox (captain), S McInally, R Rennie, N Talei. Replacements: A Walker, J Yapp, L Niven, D Basilaia, R Grant, C Leck, J Houston, D Fife.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)