PREVIEW: Dragons v Benetton
ROUND 11 CATCH-UP MATCH: With a fortnight’s break until Round 14 of the Championship the silver lining of this week is the rearranged clash between the Dragons and Benetton.
That match is the sole fixture this week with more Rodney Parade drama expected.
Dragons played their part in the tightest fixture of five Round 13 clashes at the weekend, Sam Davies’ late, late penalty sealing a superb comeback win over the Cheetahs – 13-10. Elsewhere in Round 13, 20-year-old Ryan Baird lit up Leinster’s win over Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh edged past Cardiff Blues while Munster and Connacht also prevailed.
Those sides now take a well-earned break and watch on to see how Dragons and Benetton effect the Conferences.
That Newport win was of course a huge occasion for Dragons, who know a bonus-point win on Friday would see them up to 27 points, five behind fourth-placed Cheetahs and seven points away from the Final Series spots.
Benetton, meanwhile, are sixth in Conference B and have two more points than Dragons but from less wins (four). Kieran Crowley’s men are five points behind Blues and 11 behind Connacht but do have two games in hand. Occasions between the two sides in Newport have been tight in recent times, Benetton winning 21-17 and 18-15 in 2018, but Dragons are much-improved since those times – winning their last five at Rodney Parade.
Last-gasp win scenes – 2018 🎥
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) March 5, 2020
Flyhalf Jacob Botica and prop Josh Reynolds are both handed their first starts in the Pro14 for the Dragons.
Reynolds starts at loosehead prop – with Aaron Jarvis ruled out by injury – as Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby, makes just two changes to the starting line-up that defeated Cheetahs.
Botica will make his tenth appearance this season, but first start in the league, as he comes in for Sam Davies who was unavailable for selection due to training commitments with Wales.
Wales hooker Elliot Dee returns from international camp to be named among the replacements.
Scrumhalf Luke Baldwin, Arwel Robson and Connor Edwards are also called into the matchday squad.
Prop Conor Maguire, who has joined on a short-term trial, could also make his debut for Dragons from the bench.
For Benetton, the fullback will be Luca Sperandio with Angelo Esposito and Monty Ioane on the wings.
Ignacio Brex and Marco Zanon will form the midfield.
The halfbacks are Charly Trussardi at scrumhalf and Ian Keatley at flyhalf.
The front row will consist of Nicola Quaglio, Tomas Baravalle and Filippo Alongi.
Locks will be Irné Herbst and Eli Snyman. Finally, the back row sees Michele Lamaro, Federico Ruzza and Toa Halafihi completing the XV.
Dragons: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Jacob Botica, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Ellis Shipp, 1 Josh Reynolds,
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Conor Maguire, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Connor Edwards.
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley (captain), 9 Charly Trussardi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Federico Ruzza, 6 Michele Lamaro, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Giuseppe Di Stefano, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Luca Petrozzi, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Joaquin Riera.
Date: Friday, March 6
Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport
Kick-off: 19.35 (20.35 Italy time)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan