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Magners Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons v Ulster

Magners Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons v Ulster

Ulster will be hoping to end a poor run of results in Wales – they have lost their last four games in the Principality – but their recent record against the Newport Gwent Dragons is encouraging. Ulster have beaten the Dragons four times since losing 13-11 at Rodney Parade in February 2005.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 6

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS v ULSTER, Rodney Parade, 5.30pm (live S4C)

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Team News: Mark McCall has made five changes to the Ulster side that started last Friday’s disappointing 24-10 loss at the hands of Edinburgh. In the backs, Darren Cave, Mark Bartholomeusz and Paul Marshall are the new inclusions at outside centre, full-back and scrum half respectively.

Cave, who was part of the Ireland Under-20s’ Grand Slam-winning team this year, has been in electric form of late at club level, scoring two hat-tricks over successive weekends for Belfast Harlequins. Saturday’s game will mark his first competitive start for Ulster.

Bartholomeusz is preferred to Bryn Cunningham at full-back, while number 9 Marshall is looking forward to making his first start for Ulster, with Kieran Campbell dropping to the replacements bench.

The two changes in the forwards see Declan Fitzpatrick taking over from Tom Court at tighthead prop and following Ryan Caldwell’s three-week suspension for stamping, Justin Harrison will partner Tim Barker in the second row for the Rodney Parade tie.

Ulster have also shaken up their bench with Italian World Cup lock Carlo Del Fava in line to make his competitive debut for the province as a replacement and summer signing Kieran Hallett, the back-up out-half, could do likewise.

Meanwhile, the Dragons have made four changes to the team that lost to Munster, with Kevin Morgan returning at full-back for Martyn Thomas who has a fractured hand and will be out for a couple of weeks.

Gareth Maule replaces Ashley Smith, who had a bump to his knee in the game against Munster, however he is named on the replacements bench. There is a new half-back partnership with Ceri Sweeney replacing Aled Thomas and Wayne Evans in for Andy Williams, who will be out for a week with a knee injury.

The Dragons’ pack remains unchanged for Saturday’s game with Wales Under-20 internationals Hugh Gustafson and Dan Lydiate keeping their places in the starting line-up.

Dragons: Kevin Morgan (capt); Gareth Wyatt, Rhodri Gomer Davies, Gareth Maule, Richard Mustoe; Ceri Sweeney, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Luke Charteris, Andrew Hall, Dan Lydiate, Richard Parks, Joe Bearman.

Replacements: Ben Daly, Adam Black, Jamie Ringer, Michael Owen, Phil Dollman, Ashley Smith, Alex Walker.

Ulster: Mark Bartholomeusz; Mark McCrea, Darren Cave, Tommy Bowe, Simon Danielli; Niall O’Connor, Paul Marshall; Justin Fitzpatrick, Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Harrison, Tim Barker, Matt McCullough, David Pollock, Roger Wilson (capt).

Replacements: Matt Miles, Tom Court, Carlo Del Fava, Neil McMillan, Kieran Campbell, Kieran Hallett, Bryn Cunningham.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

Coach Speak: Paul Turner (Dragons) – “The players performed well against Munster and gave what should have been a winning performance. The squad remains upbeat and the feeling in the camp is positive, defeat is never easy but we have to be more ruthless when we get into those try-scoring opportunities.

“It is great to have the international players back, albeit a week earlier than we thought and they will bring some experience into the team. Ulster have won the last two at Rodney Parade and will be a big challenge for the squad, however, we have to get back to winning ways.

“If we perform for the full 80 instead of the 40 minutes we did against Munster then there is no reason why we cannot get our Magners League campaign back on track.”

Mark McCall (Ulster) – “We are pretty stretched at the moment in certain positions and there are a lot of people unavailable for selection. We didn’t foresee players like David Humphreys and Paul Steinmetz not being available during these crucial weeks when we are short-staffed.

“But we have great faith in some of the younger players who have come through, they have done an exceptional job in the friendlies and the Ospreys game.

“There was a collective dip against Edinburgh last week but these are young players having their first shot at this and some of those ups and downs are going to occur.”

Match Odds: Paddy Power – To Win: Dragons 8/15, Ulster 7/4; Draw: 18/1


September 26, 2003: Ulster 37 Dragons 18, Ravenhill
February 28, 2004: Dragons 27 Ulster 19, Rodney Parade
October 8, 2004: Ulster 21 Dragons 28, Ravenhill
February 18, 2005: Dragons 13 Ulster 11, Rodney Parade
September 24, 2005: Dragons 19 Ulster 22, Rodney Parade
March 25, 2006: Ulster 24 Dragons 17, Ravenhill
September 9, 2006: Dragons 25 Ulster 32, Rodney Parade
February 16, 2007: Ulster 14 Dragons 7, Ravenhill


– The Newport Gwent Dragons have slipped to three successive home defeats in the Magners League and will not wish to set a new Dragons record of four defeats in a row at Rodney Parade

– Ulster’s only away win in the Magners League since January was a 33-9 success at Border Reivers on April 13

– Ulster have lost on their last four visits to Wales, but they have won the last four encounters between the two teams