Ulster Rugby v Dragons


coaching team this week. The skipper Cory Hill is a Welsh international lock who loves to make his presence felt in the setpiece, and hooker Elliott Dee and South African prop Brok Harris provide just a hint of a steely and resilient front row. Behind the scrum there is real competition at scrum-half, with Sarel Pretorius the man in possession, and the half-back partner to one of the game’s most colourful figures, the hugely talented but surely unfulfilled Gavin Henson. At 35, Henson is showing glimpses of the gifts which once made him the organiser-in-chief of the Wales backline, his kicking is as accurate and inventive as ever and if he’s lost a yard of pace he still sees opportunities which others cannot even imagine. Tyler Morgan is an international centre and winger Hallam Amos has played for Wales and is a prolific try-scorer, as he showed against Connacht with an early strike. One player who’ll hope to be fit and available to feature tonight is South African fullback Zane Kirchner, very familiar and potent figure for Leinster for so many years. So the Dragons may be developing an ‘X Factor’ with such a sprinkling of experienced but proven players but Jackman will want his team to set the tone with some early, exhausting tussles up front. So, the Dragons may be embarking on a defining chapter in a rich and not always harmonious history but in this new, still rather complex reshaping of the Guinness PRO14, the club is determined on a course which will at last bring silverware to Rodney Parade and which will fire its long-held European ambitions. To reach the knockout stages of the Champions Cup for the first time ever is a target in the medium-term, and to even have access to that Jackman’s side must defy its league history and claim one of the top three spots in Conference B. Ulster’s immediate challenge is to stall the visitors’ hopes but, more pertinently, call upon the character, the belief and the concentration on the game’s principles to ensure that last weekend’s superb exhibition of all these can be the template for what has the potential to be a key stage in the growth of this group of players and coaches. Individually there has been much to admire,

especially in the displays of the newly-arrived half-back pairing of Christian Leali’ifano and John Cooney, a scrum-half whose relish for the battle has already established him as a fans’ favourite at Kingspan. Kiss and Gibbes have managed to give ‘game time’ to much of the squad and there are other strong personalities yet to be integrated over the coming weeks. The focus will be on winning games, a habit beloved of supporters, and with Zebre and Connacht to face before Europe calls in October the next few weeks are – like so many before! – very important. If the stadium can be as passionate a cauldron as it became a week ago, if the players respond to situations with the same positive instincts, then the Dragons will not at all relish the game tonight. The fans were rewarded last Friday evening, their faith can be underpinned with another demonstration that Ulster has rediscovered its mojo.




Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs