Following a three-week break from an undefeated January, The Dragons are back in Magners League action on Friday night when they travel to Ravenhill to take on Ulster (7.10pm).
Last time out The Dragons, minus their internationals recorded a comprehensive 48-0 win over Border Reivers. The bonus point win saw The Dragons move into sixth place in the table and crucially above another Welsh region as the battle for Heineken Cup qualification intensifies.
The Dragons have named a 23-man squad for the game and have included Welsh internationals Aled Brew, Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Cooper and Colin Charvis. Also included are Wales U20 internationals Ashley Smith and Jamie Corsi.
Looking ahead to the game, man of the match from the last Dragons game Aled Thomas said, "Ulster are an extremely strong side, shown in the fact that they are currently second in the Magners League having only lost four games all season in the competition. Ravenhill is an extremely intimidating place to play at with 10,000 Ulstermen on your back for the full 80 minutes. The Ulster team have been together for a long period of time and as a result their understanding and knowledge of one another is exceptional. They are a dogged side, difficult to break down and defensively they are strong. However, we have had a good start to 2007 and achieved target one which was to secure a quarter-final place in the European Challenge Cup. We are building momentum, gaining confidence and now it is time to achieve target two of moving up the Magners League table into the zone of securing Heineken Cup rugby for next season."
The Dragons and Ulster have played each other seven times in the league with Ulster currently edging the series 4-3 and they have won the last three encounters against Paul Turner's side.
Ruled out of the game on Friday night are Nathan Brew and Craig Warlow (both ankle), Joe Bearman (hip), Lee Harrison (foot), Kieran Crawford and Steve Jones (both shoulder).
The Dragons have been boosted by the news this week that the coaching team of Paul Turner, Leigh Jones and Dai Rees have all signed contract extensions keeping them at the region until the end of next season. Looking ahead to the Ulster game on Friday night, Paul commented, "January was an intense period for The Dragons but to have come away from that with four wins from four was extremely satisfying. The players put their bodies on the line and showed that there is something special happening here at The Dragons. We are taking steps forward and need to continue doing that on Friday night. However, while Ravenhill is one of the toughest places to go to and play we travel with confidence. We have won away in France and pushed both the Ospreys and Bristol close away from home. We need to get on the front foot against Ulster and put the pressure on them immediately. They say winning becomes a habit and we hope this habit remains come 9pm Friday."
Aled Thomas, Gareth Wyatt, Aled Brew, Richard Fussell, Paul Emerick, Ashley Smith, Ceri Sweeney, Mike Hercus, Gareth Cooper, Alex Walker, Adam Black, Jamie Corsi, Gethin Robinson, Ben Daly, Richard Wilkes, Luke Charteris, Peter Sidoli, Bryn Griffiths, Andrew Hall, Colin Charvis, Jamie Ringer, Nic Fitisemanu, Michael Owen.
Following their Magners League game against Ulster, a week later The Dragons become involved in a first for Welsh rugby, the staging of a game at A level. The Dragons will play an A side against an Ospreys A side at the Brewery Field on Friday 23rd February, kick off 7.15pm. The team will feature academy players, fringe Dragons squad players and Premiership players with the aim to give exposure to academy members and also introduce the Premiership players to the demands of the regional game. The match will give the players a taste of rugby at the next level and with the break in games due to internationals give them some much needed game time.
Over 1,000 tickets have already been sold for The Dragons quarter-final European Challenge Cup clash against Brive at the end of March. Season ticket holders are reminded that they are eligible for a further £2 off the price of their ticket up until the close of business on Friday 23rd March with their seats reserved until Friday 9th March after which they will be released for general sale. The match is "All Pay" which means that season ticket holders will need to purchase a ticket. Prices have been held at the usual League game levels with the normal advance ticket discounts applying, plus an additional discount for season ticket holders.
Rodney Parade will also host the final U21 Six Nations game when Wales U20s take on England U20s on Friday 16th March. Tickets for this game are also on sale available from the ticket office (01633 674990).