Three to watch: Dragons

Andy Baber
04 July 2018

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Dragons endured a difficult Guinness PRO14 campaign in 2017/18 as they finished second from bottom in Conference B with two wins to their name.

Leon Brown celebrates scoring a try for Dragons

Only Southern Kings – one of their two victims – ended the season with fewer points and wins than Bernard Jackman’s side.

But the Men of Gwent have since undergone a huge makeover, with 14 new faces coming in and 19 players departing, as they look to provide a sterner challenge next season.

We have had look at three of the key players to keep an eye on this year at Rodney Parade ahead of the new Guinness PRO14 season.

Ross Moriarty

In what was a major transfer coup, Dragons confirmed they had secured the services of the Welsh international and Lions tourist from Gloucester in November 2017.

The signing of the 24-year-old, who had previously snubbed interest from Scarlets and Exeter Chiefs, underlines the ambition of Jackman to change the fortunes of Dragons.

Moriarty’s move was prompted by his own ambition to play for Wales, who won’t select players plying their trade outside Wales unless they have 60 or more Test caps.

The back row will significantly strengthen Dragons with his dynamism and power off the back of the scrum – not to mention his tackling prowess.

He will miss the pre-season games and the first match of the new Guinness PRO14 campaign after being sent off for foul play in the second Test between Argentina and Wales.

But with his international class in the back-row, Dragons possess a player capable of making a difference in both defence and attack and taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

Josh Lewis

The promising 25-year-old playmaker was signed on a two-year deal from Bath Rugby earlier this year and joins Dragons after one season in the Premiership.

Despite only being restricted to a handful of appearances, the fly-half is highly-regarded and could be the frontrunner for the No.10 shirt with Gavin Henson at inside centre.

While his game time in the West Country was limited, he was able to learn his trade off both Rhys Priestland and Freddie Burns and quickly endeared himself to Bath fans.

He delivered two man-of-the-match displays for the Blue, Black and Whites in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last season, including the narrow 13-12 victory over Northampton Saints in the semi-final.

In that game, which was played in heavy rain on a boggy pitch at The Rec, he demonstrated huge maturity and his territorial kicking piled the pressure on Saints and helped earn the win.

Lewis is coming into his prime as a fly-half and with a sustained run in the team, could prove a key figure in the resurgence of Dragons, but he will have to contend with competition from the likes of Arwel Robson and possibly even Jordan Williams.

Leon Brown

While he is not one of the new arrivals, Leon Brown continues to grow in stature as a tighthead and has been touted as a possible contender for Warren Gatland’s squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

One of the main areas of concern for Dragons last season was their scrummaging – an area they have attempted to address with the signing of Ryan Bevington from Bristol.

But a fit and firing Brown would also add much needed beef to the front five at Rodney Parade, with the 21-year-old a modern prop who can also influence the game in other areas.

He did not have a lot of luck with injuries last season, missing a significant portion of the campaign with the concussion he suffered for Wales against New Zealand in November.

Brown then picked up a toe injury in the defeat to Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth in March, which saw him miss the conclusion of the season and ruled him out of Wales’ summer tour.

However, the 6ft 3ins, 19st 11Ib forward should be back in time for pre-season and will want to make good on his potential, especially with competition coming from new signing Aaron Jarvis.

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