The Dragons outlined how they were committed to developing rugby in the region of Gwent and the teams ambition was to be a major force in European Rugby.
Wales Centre Andy Marinos will captain the side. Chief Executive David Jenkins said, “We want to make rugby a vibrant sport in the area and develop players in the region to reach the best of their potential. We want to become a region to be reckoned with and want supporters to get behind the team. We are holding a warm up game against Leeds Tykes in August at Pontypool Park which will be the first chance for supporters to see the side in action. We chose Pontypool as it is a playing field steeped in history and so where better than there to host the opening regional game.
We will also be playing Harlequins at Rodney Parade on Bank Holiday Monday. Our season ticket package will be unveiled later this week which is very attractive and everyone connected with the region is looking forward to seeing Rodney Parade packed. After months of talk, speculation and comment now is the time for action as we get down to the rugby. The countdown now begins for the start of the season with 25 days until our first pre-season game it is all systems go as we work together to get everything in place.”
Mike Ruddock is the man in charge of coaching the regional side and is very excited about the season ahead. Outlining his playing vision for the season he stated how Gwent were introducing junior squads at U12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 level, how regional development squads would develop players at U18 and U21 level which would go on to feeding the semi-professional sides within Gwent, the Gwent Dragons and the ultimate pinnacle of representing the national side.
“Everyone wants to work together to develop rugby in the region and tomorrows generation of elite rugby players. Whilst this will take time I believe we have the ability and structure to achieve our goal of becoming a force in rugby at every level. Newport and Ebbw Vale Rugby Clubs took their responsibility of nurturing and developing rugby in the area very seriously and we will continue this throughout the area of Gwent. Now are exciting times and everyone is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead, all looking to achieve the ambition of Gwent becoming one of the strongest rugby regions in Europe.”
Gwent Dragons have begun to establish links with the 44 District A clubs where it was agreed that everyone should work together to advance the quality of rugby at all levels within the District. Speaking at the launch new captain Andy Marinos said, “I am honoured to have been selected as captain of the first regional entity in Gwent. It is an exciting venture and I am enjoying reacquainting my working relationship once again with Mike Ruddock and Clive Griffiths, having both played and captained under them with the Wales A team. “We have assembled a very committed squad with a high work ethic, as has been evident since training began on the 1st July.
As a group of players we are excited at the challenge of both regional rugby and to establish Gwent as a dominant figure within Welsh and European Rugby. “The tensions between the clubs, the union and the supporters have been well documented over the past 3-4 months. I urge you the media and the supporters and major players to get behind your new regional team, THE DRAGONS.
The players I believe have in all this been the pawns in a very long game of chess, and have just had to get on with the task at hand and are the ones who will be judged should the results not go the way that others want. “I am excited by the new challenge that we have before us and it is not too dissimilar to my time with The Stormers in South Africa which also had a massive transformation when we changed the identity of the region and we will look to take this region to the same heights.
It is however important to remember that it was the effective working of the squad, supporters, media and the business community that made the Stormers the success that it is. “We are a determined bunch of players and as depicted by our new identity the Dragon. It’s fire is at it’s strongest once it has been bellowing in the belly for some time, so I leave you with this thought- We are in the belly at present and awaiting our exit!”
Those involved with the Gwent Dragons have begun to embrace the concept of regionalism and whilst the team has been training for work on the field there has also been lots of work behind scenes. “We have drawn up an ambitious and impressive structure for rugby in the area,” concluded David Jenkins. “Every age side has been looked at from U12s to the full time professional players and everyone will have the opportunity to develop and achieve their rugby potential.
Now is an exciting time for rugby in Wales and rugby in Gwent. We have a fantastic fixture list which everyone is looking forward to but more importantly we are looking forward to the people of Gwent getting behind the rugby of Gwent.”