Rugby is clearly a young man’s game as England rely on a 20-year-old fly half and Wales continue to wow with a winger just out of his teens – and Newport Gwent Dragons look set to follow the trend.
Dragons’ 21-year-old Toby Faletau has proven himself to be one of the most athletic and powerful No.8s in the world and there are plenty more stars in their early 20s set to embark on a tough RaboDirect PRO12 season for the club.
Flanker Lewis Evans will captain the team in the upcoming season as the club which finished a distant ninth in the league last season looks to replace captain Luke Charteris who has moved to Top 14 side Perpignan.
Evans will join Faletau and Dan Lydiate in a strong looking back-row which Dragons’ head coach Darren Edwards called ‘the heartbeat of our team’ but without Charteris and cult hero Aled Brew, who departed to Biarritz, they look short of experience.
But Edwards has backed the Dragons’ bright young things to make the step up and not only fill the considerable holes led by the departures but take the team to a new level.
“I think other teams can expect a step up in performance from last year. We blooded a lot of young players last year and developed them but these guys have to perform now,” he said.
“The back-row are very young and talented but there are also a few challenging them but I’m very pleased with that area and I think that could make or break the success of our season.
“I think Adam Hughes at 13 is someone to look out for this season. There’s no other 13 with his outside break ability. He’s had a remarkable pre-season and Daniel Evans at full-back is another to keep an eye out for.
“The game in Wales is changing and it certainly has changed a lot in recent years. Hopefully our plan in advance to get our younger players experienced last season will help a lot.
“They may be 20 years of age but they’ve played 20 league games so when we play our Welsh counterparts there will nothing to fear.
“Our players are as good as those at other regions in other countries. The age of our squad is young but there is some ambition there. I think we’re simmering just at the right time and we’re ready to go.”
Newport kick off their RaboDirect PRO12 campaign with a home tie at Rodney Parade against newly created Zebre – the Italian franchise which replaced Aironi from last season’s competition.
But Edwards has pointed to their matches against the other Welsh sides as vital to their chances this year.
“We need perform against our Welsh counterparts first and foremost this season,” he added. “Within your own country you need to finish above one of the other regions and in terms of the league position it’s important to try and improve on how you fared previously.
“We have a nice start to the programme where we play the Blues very early on and everyone will want to play in that match and try and win the shirt for that match.
“We’re a small squad and we’ll be flat out from the word go all the way through.
“We’ve gone through a difficult period of restructuring and bringing in players and losing certain players and any change is uncomfortable but now everything is nice and steady and the players have ambition.”