Dragons face tough Italian job
May 28, 2009
Jason Tovey starts at fullback for the Dragons after his release from the Wales squad © Getty Images
Newport Gwent Dragons head to Italy on Friday hoping to secure their place in next season's Heineken Cup. Paul Turner's men face Calvisano in what could be the final playoff of its kind.
Plans are reportedly afoot to do away with the playoff in favour of the fourth placed Welsh side in the Magners League automatically dropping in to the European Challenge Cup.
That eventuality will not deter the Dragons however, who call on their full Wales contingent after they were released from the squad to face Canada and the USA. Lock Luke Charteris, flanker Dan Lydiate, No.8 Lewis Evans and fullback Jason Tovey all start after training with the national squad last week.
Centre Ashley Smith and Kiwi lock Hoani MacDonald also return to the Dragons ranks after injury.
For Calvisano, Dragons-bound prop Ali McKenzie and former Dragons lock Peter Sidoli both start while Welsh prop Ben Evans is on the bench. Italy's Six Nations scrum-half Paul Griffen starts, as does fly-half Luke McLean although out of position at fullback.
"Calvisano have a strong squad and will be a big challenge," said Turner. "But we are ready for this match. I feel that we have made good progress this season, through both the players we brought into the side and who have come up through the academy, which was shown in the four guys getting selected for the Welsh squad this summer.
"It's not ideal of course to be playing this game, but we are where we are and we are determined to do everything we can in order to be playing Heineken Cup rugby next season."
Calvisano: Luke Mclean; Winston Mafi, Matteo Pratichetti, Gonzalo Garcia, Ludovico Nitoglia; Gerard Fraser, Paul Griffen; Alistair Mckenzie, Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), Hoani Tui, Peter Sidoli, Cameron Treloar, David Dal Maso, Aaron Persico, Alessandro Zanni.
Replacements: Ben Evans, Tommaso D'Apice, Valerio Bernabo, Nicola Cattina, Pino Patelli, Giovanni Raineri, Paolo Buso.
Dragons: Jason Tovey; Gareth Wyatt, Rory Sidey, Ashley Smith, Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Wayne Evans; Adam Black, Tom Willis (capt), Rhys Thomas, Hoani MacDonald, Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate, Craig Hill, Lewis Evans.
Replacements: Steve Jones, Nigel Hall, Grant Webb, Andrew Hall, Alex Walker, Aled Brew, Martyn Thomas.