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Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt

Aaron Wainwright

Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt

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Dean Ryan will be picking from a full strength squad for Friday night’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bristol Bears could give debuts to a trio of new signings.

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Jamie Roberts, Jonah Holmes and Greg Bateman are all in the reckoning to play their first games in Dragons colours with Ryan pledging to leave Ashton Gate with “no regrets” about his selection.

Standing between the Dragons and a fourth European Challenge Cup semi-final will be a Bristol Bears side packed full of world class players and seeking to pick up their biggest piece of silverware since 1983.

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The 94-times capped Roberts joined the Dragons during lockdown, but missed out on the chance to make his debut in the two PRO14 derby fixtures after he failed a Covid-19 test. Now Ryan is ready to give him his chance to lead the Dragons charge for a semi-final slot.

“Everyone is in the mix and we are happy to be selecting from a full strength squad. I don’t want to wake up on Saturday morning and thinking about what we might have done,” said Dragons head coach Ryan.

“I have to weigh up the amount of rugby some of the players have played with what they might add. There will be some rolling of the dice in selection because we want to go there and give a real go.

“Jamie has been fantastic for us and I don’t think anybody would look at our side and say we’ve got too many old heads in it. To have someone of the battle scars of Jamie is a huge resource for us and a calming influence for us.

“We put a lot of responsiblilty on Sam Davies when he arrived. It doesn’t mean he has got all the answers and so having Jamie alongside him helps to steady things down.

Roberts is set to team up with fellow Welsh international Nick Tompkins in the Dragons midfield, while another Welsh cap, Holmes, could make his debut at full back following his transfer from Leicester Tigers.

Another newcomer, loose head prop Bateman, followed Holmes to Rodney Parade from Leicester and is another candidate to start in the front row. Add into the mix British & Irish Lions Ross Moriarty and Richard Hibbard, Welsh caps Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Aaron Wainwright, Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies, and Ryan is looking to travel over the prince of Wales Bridge all tooled up.

Dragons back row man Wainwright is relishing the chance to get stuck into the Bears in what will be his biggest game for the region.

“They are flying high in the Premiership and have a bunch of big-name players, so I am sure it will be a big clash. Everyone is excited and looking forward to the challenge,” said the 22-year-old Welsh international.

“Dean has been saying that with high risk comes high reward and that there are going to be a lot of places in their game that we can pick on and disrupt their game plan. We have to stop them going coast-to-coast.

“With them looking to play from anywhere, we have to be switched on for the full 80 minutes. Anywhere that we look weak, or have switched off, they are going to try and come after us.

“There is nowhere we can hide when we are out on the pitch, but everyone is excited, and it will have to be a big shift from everybody to make the semi-finals.”

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Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
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Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
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Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
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Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
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Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
Full strength Dragons ready to go on a Bear hunt
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