THE RETURN of the RaboDirect Pro12 will be at the forefront of Newport Gwent Dragons’ minds when they host the Ospreys in the LV= Cup on Saturday evening.
The LV= Cup is traditionally a development competition and the Dragons will be attempting to find the right blend between handing out opportunities and kicking their losing habit.
They have been beaten in their last five and they last enjoyed a victory on December 16 against Italian minnows Mogliano.
That means they are going to avoid making drastic changes to their squad as they plot for the Pro12 clash with Treviso on February 8.
The Dragons are set to field their Wales Under-20s trio of Ieuan Jones, Hallam Amos and Jack Dixon.
Their 23 may also include wing Matthew Pewtner, who has done well with Bedwas since returning from shoulder and hamstring injuries.
Newport scrum-half Rhys Downes and loosehead prop Aaron Coundley, who is back following a bicep injury suffered in October, could also come into the mix.
However, the core of the side that suffered narrow European losses to the Bayonne and Wasps will be retained as the Dragons aim to get on track.
“We are bitterly disappointed with our recent losses but not with the performances,” said forwards and defence coach Rob Appleyard.
“That we have got ourselves into position to win and then come up short probably hurts even more.
“It means that we head into these LV= Cup games looking to get the team to finish games with confidence and belief because fitness is not an issue.
“It can be hard to get out of a losing cycle, just like teams in a winning cycle find a way to edge it even when they aren’t playing well.
“So it is important that we go into this game with a strong side and get that win.
“We are committed to developing players and handing out opportunities so there will be some changes, but not too many because we need to build towards the Pro12.”
The Ospreys, who triumphed at Rodney Parade for only the second time in their existence on New Year’s Eve, will head east with a youthful side.
The Dragons have lost Toby Faletau and Andrew Coombs to Six Nations duty while the Ospreys had nine players called up by Wales.
Autumn defeats to Bath and Northampton have left the Dragons needing a miracle to make the semi-finals but the Ospreys are in contention.