653 days ago

Darren answers our questions

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Dragged Up Questions

Does Darren appreciate the cusp we are sat on at the moment? We could go from being a poor relation to having the best team in Wales and challengers for silverware which could see the entire region get behind us and get RP sold out every week?

When I first took over the job in January my primary objective was to change the perception of how we were viewed as a region within Wales and the wider rugby public. My strategy in doing this was to develop a style of play that was engaging to the players, the Dragons fans and the Welsh public. The first hurdles to overcome here was to win games against other welsh regions. I told my players if they want to change the perception of us as a team and a region we have to be better individually and as a collective unit than our Welsh counterparts. Completing the double over the Ospreys and beating the Blues were significant victories as the players demonstrated the intent we have as a team to establish a winning style of play and the ambitions they have as individuals.

These ambitions have been realized recently with a record 5 of our players going to the World Cup. This has proven the fact that you can play for Wales if you play for the Dragons. We have worked extremely hard on creating an environment where players establish a professional work ethic and receive quality individual coaching. I believe it is important that the Dragons are able to provide the environment in which players can achieve their rugby ambitions. I have a great coaching team with me who are extremely driven in establishing the Dragons as a force within Wales and the competitions we play in. There is no way we will be a development team within Wales!

I believe we are taking the region into a new era and are certainly on the cusp of something special. Rodney Parade is a great place to play rugby and the support of our fans mean everything to us. My Players, Coaches and I believe that we represent the region as a whole and have a duty to make the people of the region proud of our achievements and share the journey with us. Being recognized as the regions professional rugby team and a sold out Rodney Parade would be fantastic. A united region that is proud of their rugby team would be unique and would certainly be the envy of others!

What are the main aims for the season and do you hope to recruit more or will the focus be to keep core players e.g. Burns Luke brew Toby and Dan
Are we looking to keep most of our players on long contracts rather than recruiting bigger names. We all heard the pre season talk on bringing in a big centre but it never materialised. Can you confirm if Tuilagi was that centre?

To take us over the cusp and establish consistency in performances the strength of my squad needs attention. My priority here is to establish a competitive squad and not just a competitive team. I believe we are in a transition season as we are developing and exposing many of our young players to a competitive environment to enable us to continue to improve the quality of our squad. Key objectives this season is to retain our current assets, which Robert Beale is working extremely hard to do and to improve the coaching infrastructure around the players. It is important that we contract our International players on long-term contracts, as they will provide the building blocks for the development of the wider squad. I believe you look first within to establish a core of players. That includes looking within our region then at the youngsters we have in our pathway. My recruitment drive will then become more measured in that new players from outside of our region will be quality players that add value to the team and the environment. A recent example of this is Tonderai Chavhanga. This player was not on the open market so I had to be very creative in my recruitment strategy. I was looking for a pure strike-running wing (I think I certainly found that!) I looked World Wide for a player of this calibre, and finally decided on Tonderai. I had my analysts gather as much footage as possible; I also spoke to a number of coaches in South Africa to make sure he was the right fit for us. I then had to approach the player and ask him to commit to the Dragons. Robert then had to negotiate a release from his current contract at the Lions. As you can see it is not a simple process when you recruit quality players.

The squad will have to be developed over a period of time due to the nature of the sport where players can be held under contract. We have already started working on recruitment targets for next season. You have seen us make some brave selections in games to make sure we expose our young players so that we can be pro-active in how we can plan their development programs. I have a strategy that I have put in place for the 3 seasons of my contract. Part of that strategy is to go on the offensive and be aggressive in recruitment of quality established players. We need to be ambitious and committed to achieve success. From a personal perspective when I leave the Dragons I want to leave a talented and consistent squad that is competitive in all competitions.

Why has Darren stated that he’s inherited a squad after releasing 17 players in the summer & having a close season where he signed his players?

When I talk about inherited players, I mean that the make-up of the squad is not what I and the coaches would like. In terms of changing this it is not quite so simple. Firstly there are contracts in place to honour, as previous coaches recruited the players. This is where most of our budget is tied up. The first step in developing the squad was during last summer when 17 were released. The next step now is to extend the contracts of those we want to keep and then hopefully in January begin the recruitment for next season when we will have a budget for recruitment. With regards to the makeup of the squad it is important to point out that we are trying to change a culture here. The attitude has been to focus on what we have not got rather than what we can achieve! Changing a culture takes time and the players know if they don’t add value to what we want to achieve they will be moved on.

Is our first team squad big enough to compete in the pro 12?

No, our current squad is not big enough or rather not competitive in certain positions to compete consistently in the Pro 12. The size and strength of our squad is a priority for a number of reasons. Firstly having depth in each position creates competitive players that drive individual performances. But more importantly, we have a number of young players that need to be taken out of games so that we can physically condition and technically improve them. This is also the case for our older players where we can take preventative measures to ensure that we manage their injuries and improve the longevity they have in the game. It is a challenge to keep players in prime physical condition in a contact sport for 10 months! The squad is my focus this season, as I believe that squads not teams win leagues and competitions.

Seriously as the majority of our recruitment has come from players you and Danny have previously worked with, is this just by chance, or did you plan this?

As mentioned before the environment and squad competition is important to me. Danny and I have had experience in working with some of our recruitment targets and believed they would be good additions to our squad. We knew what they could deliver and what value they would add to the training and off field environment. These players have been excellent in improving our culture and working with our young players. As I only retired from playing in 2008 there will inevitable be players I will recruit that I have either played with or against. I think this is a very unique position as I have a very good perspective of the attributes they have. From my time coaching with Harlequins I identified an amazing talent at Filton college…………..Toby Faletau. My first challenge in coming to the Dragons as attack coach was to get the coaches to expose these young players so we could be proactive in their development programs. This is a strategy I believe in as you have seen in our Wasps game this season.

Why is our away form so poor?

To be successful away from home we need to produce the energy and desire we demonstrate at home. Developing a competitive squad and recruiting individuals that will drive standards will help us become a competitive team on the road. The players are very focused in meeting this challenge. We have achieved 2 bonus point loses so far this season as opposed to 1 in the whole of the last season. This is not good enough for myself, or my players. I have never seen a group of disappointed players in a changing room as I experienced in Connacht and Glasgow this season. The away performance is something we are driven to achieve. It can be done as we proved at Wasps. I have no excuses here we simply have to get better.

What is the area we need to strengthen most?

Where do we need further strength in depth? & what are Darren & board doing to address?

The backs in general need strengthening, as we are low in numbers and I have a very young group. What you have seen with the wings is the direction I want to work towards with the squad. We have 3 international wings (Brew, Chavhanga, Harries) competing for 2 places with 2 young players (Pewtner, Poole) chasing them. In the forwards the back row is very strong so the emphasis will go on front row and possibly second row.

We all heard the pre season talk on bringing in a big centre but it never materialised.

We do need to bring some physicality to the midfield and it is something I will achieve. There are no Welsh centres available that have the attributes that I want so I will be bringing in a foreign player. If recruitment goes to plan I will be looking for new additions to the Back line. What is important with midfield recruitment is that I am able to create a number of centre partnerships so that our midfield is creative and not just one-dimensional.

Toward the end of last season we were playing some excellent attacking rugby especially from turnover ball. We seemed to have lost that potency in attack this year. Has there been a change of tactics to adapt other game plans or is it just things not quite working on the field?

The intent to be an attacking team is certainly my aim. I believe you have to play rugby to win games. The problem we have encountered this year has been our backs have been decimated with injuries. Our training ground preparation has been limited from an attacking point of view, as we have had to continually revisit basics to integrate new players rather than improve our attacking game. I am confident our attacking game will improve when we are able to select consistent teams. We are working very hard in order to improve this.

How will the Dragons engage with the region outside Newport? When will games be played in X Keys, Pontypool or Ebbw Vale?

This is a huge target for us to achieve and Robert Beale in particular is passionate about this. What I can tell you from my perspective is what my coaching team are dedicated to achieve. I and my coaches believe that we should impart as much knowledge and engage as many coaches within our region as possible as these coaches are part of the pathway a player goes through on the way to the regional team. We have all presented at coach education evenings throughout the region on various topics. What was a significant step for us in the summer was to host a coaching workshop day at Rodney Parade. The coaches, analysts and conditioners presented on their areas of expertise not just to give the coaches as many ideas as possible but to also give open and honest feedback to what we are doing at the Dragons. The day saw 60 coaches attend from various tiers of the game from mini and junior rugby through to the premiership. I gave an open invite to any regional coach to attend training at any time to see the methods we are using in training and the culture we are trying to create. The result of this has been almost every week we have had coaches shadowing our environment.

Props – what are the plans for future development for front row players?

Front row development is a key area we have targeted. Danny Wilson has set up a front row clinic that meets every two weeks. At this clinic identified front row players from throughout the region get individual coaching with Danny. What also happens is that their coaches also attend so the work can be followed up at club training. These individual players are then watched by all the coaching staff to review their performances on Monday afternoons. From these reviews we identify technical priorities that Danny will then feedback to the players and coaches. As you know front row quality is very valuable to the team and in terms of cost they are the most expensive players to recruit.

Do you think that props should “serve an apprenticeship” at WP or Div 1 level before being introduced to regional rugby?

In most cases props take time to technically and physically mature. The lower divisions are certainly a tough place to serve an apprenticeship, as there are more scrums in these games and many experienced scrummagers. We have told all our players that they need to stand out in the semi professional game first before they are considered for the Dragons. What I feel this does is the player has to engage with the club he is playing for, as he first needs to prove his value to his teammates. If a player does this it tells me that this player has a good attitude and an ambition to play for the Dragons.

I noticed in the pre-season games we seemed to be going low in the tackle to get the man down and compete for the ball. I’ve not seen us do it so much in the season. Is this a work in progress? Luke and Dan seem to be very, very good at this tactic; do we need more jackalling type players to compliment them?

This is our defensive tactic as it takes the momentum out of teams. You saw the result of this tactic at the end of the season in the Ospreys and Blues game as these two teams are very direct and both try to play a power game. As you mentioned we have some players who are very good at doing this, our job now as coaches is to develop the technical ability within all our players. Rob Appleyard is the best defensive coach I have worked with. He is working tirelessly with players on an individual basis to improve their tackle effectiveness. I am very confident we will see the fruits of all the hard work he has put in as the season progresses. Glasgow and Ulster were two clean sheets for us.

What are the plans in regards to the facilities for players? Where and when will these be put in place?

Improving facilities is a battle I am determined to win. There is no point me talking about what we have not got as this will then become an excuse which I do not want to have. Our rugby budget is not big enough currently to build a squad and improve facilities. Establishing a quality training base is what I and the coaches are fully committed to. I will give you an example of that commitment: We are setting up a number of initiatives to generate money to buy gym equipment that is done outside of our working day. My coaches, medics, analysts, conditioners and Mark Jones are constantly trying to generate income to improve the facilities the players have. All the money I would gain from personal appearances and coaching sessions I put into a fund to improve our facilities. We are determined to equip a quality weights gym that will service all players in the region. I am here for a short time and it is important to me that I leave future coaches fundamental facilities to continue the development of the team. It would be great to have all your help or ideas to help us achieve this.

Fitness of our Players?

All of our squad follows a 12-week block during the pre-season. Pre-season is an opportunity to make significant gains in the most appropriate areas for the individual athlete and the team. The logical aim is to make players fitter and stronger. We use anaerobic games and repetition of drills for the majority of our fitness work – whilst our resistance programs consist of some block periodisation and some conjugated methodology. Many other aspects of conditioning are covered including, functional training, mobility, speed and flexibility to name a few.
Players are getting bigger, stronger and leaner every year; this seems to be a consistent progression within most rugby teams. Our testing battery keeps us well informed of the progress of our squad and we regularly make comparisons with regional, national and English Premiership teams. Over the last 10 months we have made significant gains with many players. Feedback from Wales as to the condition of our players going in to the World Cup camp was very good.

I have asked my Head of Conditioning Alex Lawson to develop the players so that they are able to sustain a high tempo game whilst increasing their power and body weight. This is a very difficult task for him as this is a process that takes time, as we still have to play 30+ games in a season. Many of our players have young training ages and it is important that the physical changes are made progressively to avoid injury. Alex is an extremely talented conditioner that has the respect of the players, so I am confident he will achieve the goals I have set. Our physical and technical preparation is focused to achieving a style of play that is skilful and played with high tempo. My playing philosophy is that attacking rugby wins games!

Does he think Toby should grow his afro back?

Yes I do! I enjoyed seeing the afro wigs at games.

As a Maesteg born lad and as a scrum half who were your heroes growing up, also what do you think of your home town’s rugby club demise?

I grew up in South Africa, so my heroes were springbok internationals. It was a great place to be a young rugby player and supporter.

It is very sad to see the demise of Maesteg rugby club, as it has been an integral part of the community for such a long time. When the Celtic Warriors disbanded it left the whole valley without a professional team.

Who is/was better you or the Rascal (Joe Bedford)?

When I was competing against Joe I was 35! I constantly remind Joe of this as he did actually play more games than me. What I tell him now is he has to play more than 250 professional games and play until he is 35!!.

Who’s faster Superman, The Flash or Tonderai Chavhanga?

I can only answer to what I can see with my own eyes and that is Tondi. He can certainly run!

Can I have his job as I could make the Dragons players stand behind the posts looking at conversions all day?

At the moment NO! I have a 3 year contract with the Dragons and I am totally committed to creating a successful team here. There is no way I will give up my chance to improve this team and region as a whole. I believe this is a great place to play rugby and has many talented players that want to achieve. These players will not be watching too many conversions in seasons to come!!!

Thank you for all your questions. I have tried to answer them as honestly as possibly (please appreciate that some are sensitive). Apologies if I have not responded to them all individually as I have tried to give a general answer to a group of similar questions. I have said previously that we need your patience to allow us to change a culture and give us time to build. I believe we are well on the way to achieving this as we have already broken down many barriers. This is what we have achieved so far: (since February 2011)

  • Semi Final LV
  • Double over a Welsh Region- Ospreys
  • Beat the Blues!
  • Developing the stadium
  • Improved the coaching infra structure around the players
  • 5 in the Welsh Squad for the World Cup
  • Outstanding Performances by Dragons players in the World Cup
  • Contracting current World Class Players on long term deals

In my book, we are certainly moving forward. It will always be emotional, but there are certainly more good times to come! That is why we love rugby!

717 days ago

Dragons v Arioni (Report)

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Newport Gwent Dragons scored two tries as they recorded their first RaboDirect Pro12 win of the season.

Tom Riley crossed for the first after four minutes, and Jason Tovey’s kicks opened up a 13-3 half-time lead.

Aironi closed to within two points through a Josh Furno try and two penalties from Naas Olivier.

Andrew Coombs calmed home nerves with a converted try, and although Olivier’s kick closed the gap, Matthew Jones’ penalty took the Dragons clear again.

The victory came at a significant cost to the home side, though, who will be down to the bare bones for Friday’s visit to Connacht.

Backs Riley (dead leg), Wayne Evans (groin), Mike Poole (shoulder) and Adam Hughes (neck) all left the field injured and are extremely doubtful for the trip to Ireland.

Poole’s shoulder injury is of greatest concern, with the winger facing surgery.

With Ashley Smith, Jamie Smith and Will Harries already sidelined, and Aled Brew on World Cup duty, the Dragons will have to turn to academy or club players to supplement the squad to face Connacht.

DRAGONS TEAM: Martyn Thomas; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Pat Leach, Mike Poole; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Phil Price, Tom Willis, Dan Way, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Lewis Evans, Gavin Thomas, Andrew Coombs.

REPLACEMENTS: Rhys Buckley, Nathan Williams, Nathan Buck, Darren Waters, Jevon Groves, Joe Bedford, Matthew Jones, Matthew Pewtner.

ARIONI TEAM: Ruggero Trevisan; Sinoti Sinoti, Gilberto Pavan, Gabriel Pizarro, Giovanbattista Venditti; Naas Olivier, Tito Tebaldi; Matias Aguero, Roberto Santamaria (capt), Fabio Staibano, Joshua Furno, George Biagi, Frans Viljoen, Nicola Cattina, Nick Williams.

REPLACEMENTS: Davide Giazzon, Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Romano, Josh Sole, Simone Favaro, Tyson Keats, Alberto Benettin, Riccardo Pavan.

Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Phil Fear, Phil Connett (both Welsh Rugby Union)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (Welsh Rugby Union)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Welsh Rugby Union)

Pob Lwc Dreigiau v Connaught on Friday !!!

854 days ago

Last Match of the Season

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Well, it’s finally here. the last match on what has been a fairly tumultuous season. we’re saying goodbye to two of our senior players today, “Mighty” Joe Bearman and Matthew J Watkins. They’re both playing from the bench this evening, and should both get a run on, so we can all say cheerio in our typical, loud fashion.
they’ve both served the Drags well, Joe was our player of the season twice, and has always had an impact. MJW has bee nsorely tried through injury and illness, but when fit has scored a couple of cracking tries for us, and was a hell of a presence in midfield. They both go with best wishes from everyone here at Dragged Up. Stella has been dispatched.
So, on to this evening, and the last match of the season. A final second kick won the reverse fixture for Ulster at Ravingmad, lets hope things aren’t as close tonight. We’re both without a few players, and for those of you hoping to catch a glimpse of our new fullback, you’re out of luck, it seems.
It should be a good match, though, and it’s your last chance to really let go until September, so lets hear it.


Dragons v Ulster
Steffan Jones 15 A D’Arcy
Adam Hughes 14 C Gilroy
Tom Riley 13 D Cave
Pat Leach 12 N Spence
Aled brew 11 S Danielli
Jason Tovey 10 I Humphreys
Wayne Evans 9 R Pienaar
Phil Price 1 T Court
Lloyd Burns 2 R Best ©
Dan Way 3 D Fitzpatrick
Luke Charteris 4 J Muller
Adam Jones 5 D Tuohy
Dan Lydiate 6 P Wannenburg
Toby faletau 8 R Diack
Gavin Thomas 7 C Henry
Tom Willis 16 A Kyriacou
Ben Castle 17 P McAllister
Hugh Gustafson 18 J Cronin
Andrew Coombs 19 T Barker
Joe Bearman 20 T Anderson
Matthew Watkins 21 P Marshall
Jon Evans 22 I Whitten
Matthew Jones 23 C Gaston.

883 days ago

Interview with Darren Edwards

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OK, there’s no rugby this weekend, apart from something called the heineken cup, which sounds a little inferior to us, but Darren Edwards gave us an hour of his time to answer some questions, which hopefully will help fill the gap. Like us, i’m sure you’ll all be impressed by the enthusiasm and excitement he’s showing for the drags.

The argus reported a week ago that you were close to signing a contract for next season; can you give us any details?
I think that’s the Argus speculating. Discussions are ongoing, I can’t really say any more than that. Although as I have said previously I would like to stay with the Dragons.

You spent most of your career in the Guinness Premiership – how does that compare with the Magners, from a players point of view?
It’s a different competition, due to promotion and relegation. It’s dominated by structured defences and set pieces, and is more about big powerful forwards; a war of attrition. In the Magners we tend to get more rugby played, and teams are less afraid to try things.

Assuming you are head coach, what will we be aiming for next season? Are we going to target the league, or go all out in the Amlin? Or both?
First things first, we’ve got to define our style of play. We’ve tried in the past to copy others too much. We know what players we’ve got, and we need to develop a game that suits them. The Magners is our major competition, and that defines which other competition we play in, so that has to be our main concern, but we’ll take each game as it comes and hopefully get to a stage in the season where there is a choice to make. We need to establish our identity and make other teams think about us, and get the fans behind what we’re doing. Rodney parade could be a really special place if we can do that.

Is our first team squad big enough?
We have a large enough squad but the difference with us, and the top teams is that the large majority of our squad is made up of players who are still developing. We do not have the budget to buy in ‘ready’ made players. We have taken the view here that we have to invest in the talent we have available and grow the squad together. This means having the conviction to expose our young players to competitive rugby and us as coaches making sure we service the players with quality technical and physical support. It is apparent that there is real talent within the squad. If these players continue to progress as well as they are at present, the Dragons will become a formidable team as these players mature together.

We seem to kick an awful lot – is this by design, or is it just a natural reaction from the players?
I’m not a fan of the kicking, it’s a part of the game we are working on. We have got ourselves into trouble with poor execution and decisions but hopefully you have seen recently that I’m encouraging more attacking play from deep in our half.

Our main weakness is the scrum. What are we doing to sort this out?
There’s already a marked difference from last year, and Danny Wilson is doing a great job in improving this area. We’re still not dominating, but we are now able to play ourselves away from the scrum. It takes time to develop an extremely technical area like the scrum. Danny didn’t join until the season had started when he introduced a new method of scrimmaging that will suit our players. We will have a ten week preseason coming up to make adjustments. I’m confident we will see further improvements next season.

Last season Jason Tovey was an excellent kicker – an unbroken run of twenty odd successful shots at goal. How do you explain his current poor form? Do we have a kicking coach for him, and is it Neil Jenkins? What are we doing to help him recover his magic?
Jason had a success rate of 92% last season, the best in the northern hemisphere, but he tends to be a chip kicker, with no great distance. He’s been trying to change his style to develop that distance and it’s like golf or tennis, when you make a fundamental change, you have to break things all the way down. He’s still striking the ball well, but he’s lacking accuracy. It’s not ideal that he’s doing this during the season, as there is so much pressure on during games, but he had a limited pre season due to injury. So making changes in the season is tough on him as he has to do this under the pressure of competitive rugby, but it is something that will certainly come back. We still have to remember he has only just turned 21. It’s just the place kicking, though; the rest of his game is still very good.
The union have offered us help, and we can use Neil Jenkins if we want, but Jason is happy working with Shaun Connor, who is a very good kicking coach. These things take time, and during preseason Shaun will be aiming to get things sorted out.

Who do you think will be captain next season?
Luke makes an excellent captain, he leads by example, and the other players all listen to him. It’s hard work leading from the second row, though, because a player is always in the thick of it, so he would need leaders around him to help manage games.

Aled Brew. We all love him, but what are you going to do?
I wouldn’t want any other winger than Aled. He fits in with what we want to do and his scoring record speaks for itself. He just needs to learn to score tries first, and then celebrate. I was getting edgy at the Treviso game.

Centre, fullback, back five and perhaps a prop, says Bob Beale. Are we looking at anyone at the moment? The grapevine says Tuitopou from Munster or Seveali’i from London Irish.
We are looking for a player who can cover second row and back row, as Luke and Danny Lydiate are likely to be going to the world cup. We’re looking for a centre of the standard of Tuitopou and Seveali’i, yes. We’ve got young backs, guys with talent, and we need someone on the field with experience who can help them develop. Players like Hughes, Smith, Brew, Harries, Leach, Riley and Tovey are going to be around for a long time so we need someone to work alongside them and help them develop further, possibly from a different rugby culture.
We’re getting contacted by a lot of players, from within Wales and outside, who would like to join us. They can see what we’re trying to develop and want to be part of it. The biggest thing for us as a team is to strive for consistency and intensity in our play. The players we are looking to recruit can then see the potential the Dragons have as a team to compete against whoever they are playing.

What is Joe Bedford going to bring us?
I’ve worked with Joe in the past, and he’s captained Leeds. He’s had over 100 games in the Guinness Premiership, and will bring a different flavour to our game. We’ve got a 19 year old number 8, a 20 year old outside half, and we are not looking after Wayne. Joe will bring experience and control. He’s a northerner, a leader, and will drive the consistency that we currently lack. He will also push Wayne. We’ve seen previously when Danny Lee arrived how well Wayne responds to pressure. We’ve also got the current Wales u20 and u18 scrum halves in the academy, and Joe will help develop their game. Joe will also have an impact on the training pitch where his work ethic and uncompromising standards will drive standards up of those around him. We only develop as a team if we transfer what we do on the training ground to match days.

Joe bearman – fans favourite, but a big loss to the region? Did we try to keep him?
Joe is 32 and has played hardly any games over the last two seasons. We offered him a contract, but unfortunately he has accepted one from the Ospreys. He has a family to think about and sometimes these decisions are made purely for financial reasons and nobody can blame him for that. He’ll be a loss to the club, but with Toby coming through and Ieuan Davies in the u18s we’re confident that we have future internationals coming through in his position.

If you could have anyone, who would you go after?
I would rather spend the money on retaining some of our existing players. I believe that if we manage to retain our young players on long term contracts then when they mature as players and gain experience we will have a formidable team. It’s the team that will be bring us success not just having the most expensive individuals as we’ve seen at another region!

What do we need in terms of staff and facilities to develop players?
People want us to spend on a “marquee” player, but I would rather spend on infrastructure and getting in coaches to work with the clubs in the region to identify the talent; we’ve got to have succession planning. Previously we have been very reactive, hoping things will happen. We must start making things happen. We’ve brought in overseas players in the past just because they’ve been from overseas, I think that any non-Welsh qualified players we sign in the future must bring massive value to the team.
I’m really proud of the players, and I am confident that the Dragons are moving into a new era. We’re having no trouble renegotiating contracts with the players we want to keep. We’re building a new style of play that can challenge the best teams. It is an exciting place to work, the players are working hard and are showing signs of real ambition. We have a young coaching group here that has the energy and the desire to be successful. We have a plan and a goal that we will work relentlessly to achieve. The focus is on not hoping things happen but rather on making things happen!

Are there any other players from the Wales u20 squad that we could bring in and give some ML exposure to? Would they strengthen our current squad?
I’d like to keep my job with the under 20s, thanks.

Are our gym and training facilities a real issue? Will the new gym be ready for next season – how do you see it improving our players? Will the outdoor training field be ready also?
They are an issue, the present facilities are not good enough. We are not after the facilities like the Vale, just a good working gym. Things are starting to take shape, now, so that’s thanks to the board, who are being very supportive. Martyn Hazell is being very brave by putting so much into the redevelopment.
The bowling green contract ends in October so over the next couple of months we will be making plans on how we are going to develop facilities further. There is no doubt that the Dragons are looking to improve the facilities to the standard required to support a professional rugby team.

It seems that this season all the dragons players have ended up with Newport. Is this likely to continue in the future?
This is an issue that we are currently looking at. I will have to update you at a later date.

If the board could give you anything you want, what 1 single thing would make the biggest difference to the region?
I’d like more coaches for the Dragons and the region, and in particular skills coaches. All players have to start somewhere, even the world class ones!! I think it is important that we find these players early and invest quality time and resources in them so that the region has a better chance of sustaining a competitive team. This will be more cost effective to the business and it will be great for the supporters to be proud that this region produces its own players. Once we can achieve this it will then be the right time to bring in World class players to continue to quality control the environment and drive performance standards further.

What more can we as supporters do to help the team?
You need to show patience. The atmosphere is great, and when the stadium is closed in it’s going to be intense, but you need to understand we’re entering a new era, with a sustainable team. In a couple of years players like Danny and Toby are going to be fantastic, and our team will be really going places. It’s a great place to be, and the future is really exciting. We’re taking control now, and we’ll make things happen.
Your support (and noise!) during games is invaluable and is appreciated by all the players and Coaches. Keep coming to the games and continue being vocal!

Cheers Darren, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

937 days ago

Cheers Paul!

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It’s with regret we learnt today of the departure of our head coach, Paul Turner, from the side, by mutual consent. Paul has been with the drags for 6 years as head coach, and previously spent much of his career with clubs in the region, including Newbridge, Crumlin, Poola and most notably Newport. He has been a passionate advocate for Gwent Rugby during his time here, and worked tirelessly to try and make the drags something we can all be proud of.
He has been outspoken, at times, but in an era of bland soundbites this has been refreshing. It is heartening, as a supporter, to see that those at the top of the organisation feel the highs and lows of the game every bit as deeply as those of us who spend our money and time to stand on a rain swept terrace. In Paul’s case, probably more so.
He has also been a great supporter of this site, giving up his time to speak to us,and explain his reasons for making decisions that have sometimes left us puzzled – if we ever had a question, he was there with an answer, if he could. we might not like the answer, but we at least got one. For that we should thank him.
Best wishes, Paul, and thanks for everything.

the dragged up team.

939 days ago

All aboard the FunBus!

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And so to the fair port of Gloucester, for Semi Final Fun. The charabancs shall depart Rodney Parade on the morning of Sunday, March the 13th, at 9 of the clock, ante meridian, for an Exciting Afternoon of Rugby Football, played to the Union Laws.
Tickets will be for Transport only, necessitating all Interested Parties obtaining “Match Tickets”, in advance, either from the Ticket Office at Rodney Parade, or from the Rugby Football Club representing the City of Gloucester itself.
The viewing area of Choice is believed to be the area of terracing known as The Shed, but the elderly, infirm or bone idle may wish to avail themselves of one of the many Seated Areas, known as Stands. If this is the case, may we suggest you purchase your ticket via our own Ticketing Office, to ensure a comfortable and pleasant afternoon among likeminded compatriots.
Further details and debate may be found on our “chat forum” (whatever that may be), here.

it is believed there shall be an opportunity to break one’s fast at the Sign of the Double Gloucester, within sight of the cathedral spire.

Gentlemen should remember to leave their wigs unpowdered, as it causes the most damnable mess, and ladies should be cognisant that the sight of an ample decolletage may Enrage and Arouse the local populace. A replica rugby football jersey from the Shop will ensure a level of modesty and decorum in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion.

Eastward Ho!

945 days ago

Scare the pants off the Scarlets

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Dragged Up proudly present the latest technology in terrifying the opposition, and it’s a good way to show your support for our beleaguered head coach at the same time: the Tommy Turner mask.

Simply click on the link below, save the file, print it off full size on a printer, stick a bit of string on it, and come down on Sunday to roar the boys on to semifinal glory. Of course, you could print it in colour, paste it onto some thin card, use knicker elastic instead of string, cut a hole for a straw so you can sup your ‘bow, and be the envy of pretty much everyone. It’s going to be like one of those internet freedom of speech wikileaks type flashmob crowdsouring web 2.0 facebook happenings, like the t-mobile advert, but with more ‘bow, and more shouting. don’t leave home without your mask.

If we win we are almost certainly playing Glaws. It’s likely to be away, unless Glaws, Quins, Exeter and Sale all lose. Given that Quins are playing Cardiff at the stoop, that’s pretty unlikely. for a full set of permutations, including how we end up with a nightmare trip to Exeter, look here

full file here

960 days ago

It's Dragged Oop North!

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Fancy going to see Enya? Thought not, but you can “Sale Away” with Dave’s Coaches on Friday 28th January. Following on from the succesful trip to Wasps last month, BoI is organising another trip, this time to see the Drags in the now crucial LV match oop north.
After our glorious defeat to toulouse the HEC is over for another year, pretty much, but we are riding high in the LV, with a bloody good chance of staying top of our group and getting to the semi-finals; a win on the 28th would pretty much seal that. you DO want to go to a semi final, don’t you? it’s been nearly four years since we were last at one, so it’s about time.

The price is quoted at £25 which is “bloody good”, and includes (i think) travel, ticket and some grub, in a pub.
There’s lots more details here
or you can email BoI here
The coach leaves at 13:15, and will return in time for the last train to Cardiff, for those of you what are posh.

985 days ago

Game is still off, but here's an interview with Paul Turner to soften the blow

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We spoke to Paul a few weeks ago, and then we hopelessly dithered getting the interview written up. Luckily he’s been very understanding, so here’s a little boxing day present for you all.

Can you explain our current poor performance?

We are going to go through tough times until things change. It’s not easy being out of Europe, effectively, and bottom of the welsh sides, but we will always suffer from our squad size when the injuries start, and they have been savage this season. We’ve been without most of our senior players for the bulk of this season – Tovey, Gavin Thomas, Charteris, MJW, Martyn, Ash Smith.
As an example, when we played the scarlets in September they had all their big players; Steve Jones, Matthew Rees, Regan King, Sean Lamont. Other than Gavin Thomas our big players were not on the field.
The injuries mean we’ve had to bring in a lot of new players, and put players in unfamiliar positions. This has come at a time when there are major new law interpretations that the referees are struggling with, as well as the players, and it has all led to us being disjointed. We are improving, and our defence is certainly getting tighter. Another million pounds a year would sort everything out much quicker if people want short term gains!!!!!!!!

Realise that tight head props are at a premium, but options have been available at loosehead. Last summer Rhys Gill was available, but apparently no interest from the Dragons, and he was subsequently snapped up by Saracens where he is highly rated. With our stated aim of encouraging welsh talent, why did we choose to sign Ali McKenzie instead? Earlier this summer, Ceri Jones out of contract at Quins, gave a clear indication that he would be very interested in a return to the region. although he is at the twilight of his career he would have bolstered the pack and his experience and general nous would have been invaluable assets to pass on to youngsters such as coundley etc., Did we show any interest in getting Jones before he stayed with Quins? In both cases, what were the reasons, was it purely financial or a judgement call that the resources we had would suffice?

With the budget we’ve got we have decided to develop youngsters at prop, rather than try and buy in the talent. We have looked at Deon Carstens, (Natal) who is now at Saracens and Eugene van Staden (Montpellier) in the past but we just couldn’t afford them. Props cost huge sums of money, and we looked at the squad we had at the end of last season and felt that it was more important to bolster the locks and back row. However we’ve got a lot of youngsters in the squad who will develop and get better. Hopefully we’ll be seeing players like Coundley, Price and Gustafson for the next five years.
Mckenzie had already signed by the time Gill was available (although it wasn’t announced, as is the dragons way, until the end of the season), so the money just wasn’t there. Again, every time Ceri Jones is renegotiating his contract – three times in the last six years – we make the attempt, but we can’t match the money that ‘quins will pay to keep him. By the way, Ceri is now sitting behind Joe Marler and not getting much game time.
We will see the scrum get better; we’ve got young talented players in the squad, with more of the same to follow; unfortunately injuries have been unkind, with Nathan Buck and Dan Watchurst out, and now Coundley, Hall and Price have joined them.

New signings. Why throw them in week one, then demote to prem?

I assume you mean Matt Evans? Matt was signed for Newport, and it was intended that he have a season or so in the Prem to adjust and to give us a good look at him, so it’s not a demotion – that’s where he was going to go. The intention was to play Will Harries more at fullback; that was before injuries, of course. I’ve got to make it clear that the premiership is used in our region as a development league, to develop players to progress to regional rugby. This season the premiership has been successful in pushing through guys like Adam Hughes, Pat Leach and last season Toby Faletau and Andrew Coombes so it seems to be working!!!!

Our top 2 signings this summer were RST & Matthew Jones. They are not players who have proved themselves in previous clubs it seems. RST was 4th choice 7 at the Blues, MJ 2nd/2rd choice at Worcs behind Willie Walker.

The players we signed this summer are mostly Welsh, and it’s our intention to develop young Welsh players. Our signings all have potential, and players like RST and Scott Morgan will strengthen the squad, and improve as players. Both Adam Jones and Gavin Thomas are both key members of our squad after being written off elsewhere. Remember Joe Bearman had a quiet first season, and then came good; likewise RST will get better and better.

Are we signing these players as a punt because we can’t afford any players with a proven track record?

Welsh players with proven track records like Rob Sidoli, Matthew J Watkins and Gavin Thomas??? Remember we’re talking to players months before the end of the season. What you see as taking a week or so in the papers has taken months or longer to negotiate.

There has been a policy to grow the leadership group within the team by giving players the captaincy for games and more responsibility. Luke Charteris and Ash Smith have done well when called upon, both are young, Welsh and signed for the long term, however Tom Willis was chosen to continue as Captain this season. In future, How important do you believe it will be to develop a captain from within the squad?

It’s vitally important, and we’re doing it at the moment. Luke and Ash have been injured quite a lot, and were both out at the start of the season, so we need people to step up. We may well see a different captain next season.

Did you see any of the kiwis that you signed play?

Whatever clown asked this can come and ask me personally, if they would like, I’m pretty approachable!!!!!!!!

Do you consider the policy of recruiting a number of NZ players 2 years ago has been a success or failure? Have there been the benefits you anticipated from the recruitment, if yes – what exactly, if not what are the lessons have you learned from the experience?

With the budget we had, yes. Initially we had MacDonald, Willis and Arlidge. Tom has been a great ambassador for the region. He’s a good leader on and off the field, and i have a lot of faith in him. James was released to make way for Matt Jones, who fitted our policy of working with young welsh qualified players. James is proving to be not as bad a signing as some have thought – he’s the top performer in the English div 1 this season. MacDonald was a decent signing, and did a job for us. Castle and Lee have both had long layoffs with injuries.
If we had two or three times the budget then we could expect better. We enquired after Laulala three years ago, but he wasn’t interested in what we could offer. We also went after Paul Williams in the summer, but our offer was nowhere near the one from Sale Sharks. Most overseas players are available for all clubs as Xavier Rush was last season(look what happened there)

Why did we not sign Dai Bishop?

Cheeseman over Bishop was a value judgement, in the end – Tom represents better value for money for the team.

Aim for this season given the slow start? Will we now play our first team in HEC give that we are effectively out? Are we going to try and win LV?

The LV is seen as a development competition. There is no qualification process for Europe via this competition. The English clubs can qualify through this competition by winning it, but not the Welsh regions. It would be great to get the region to a semi final/final of this competition as a reward for our supporters, but it is a great competition for developing players and that’s the way we are going to use it – developing players and bringing them back after injury. We’ll do our best to be competitive in all competitions, but the Magners is our priority, and qualifying for Europe via the Magners League is our aim.

If you had an unlimited budget to bring in any player you wanted who would it be and why?

We looked at the successful Canterbury side 4 years ago. Tuili’i(8) and Laulala(13) were two players i thought could bring the necessary quality and leadership to enable us to build the team and progress. but we couldn’t get it to happen. I feel Tom Willis has been a great investment for the Dragons, his leadership qualities have been exemplary both on and off the field, ok he’s had his share of injuries but that’s just the nature of the game. We see Tom as key in the development of Lloyd Burns.
On another note last season Ulster went to their union and got 750k to bring in four extra players,it’s why you see them doing much better in Europe and high up in the Magners league but we can’t do that.Also with sound investment it allows you to keep hold of key players as Ulster have just done with retaining Stephen Ferris.

What’s the biggest change you have noticed in the game since you took control at the Dragons (apart from the endless alterations to the rules)?
We’re moving forward at the Dragons, but not at the pace we would like. We tend to procrastinate. The new development at the ground will benefit the organisation long term, but not the team in the short term. Martyn made a choice to develop the ground, and I’m going to have to live with that, but we talk and he understands the need to progress and try and develop our local youngsters. The new training facilities have helped, but they’re on a two year lease and we need to be negotiating now for the future. We have to start looking at the bigger picture.
Who is the best player under 20 that you have seen in the world game right now?

Tyler Bleyendaal, the kiwi fly half. Julian Sevea, the Wellington winger, is very good. Joe Marler the Quins loose head and our own Toby Faletau are certainly ones to watch out for.

Which “developing country” poses the biggest threat on the international stage (ie – if the Yanks got there arses in gear and got shot of the pads)?

The Americans, definitely, particularly now the sevens game has got Olympic status.

Which position is the hardest to recruit players for?
Why is there a shortage of Tight Head Props in the game?

Props aren’t ready til their late twenties. There needs to be a degree of patience that doesn’t seem to be there from the public.

From Magners league coach of the season to languishing at the foot of the Magners League. Is it worth it?

I’m well aware of the expectancy at the region. So long as everyone in the organisation, at board level, the administration and the supporters are pushing in the same direction, it’s a job worth doing. Sometimes you’ve got to question whether that’s the case though!!!!!.

Any names to look out for of youngsters that may break in the first team?

Mitchell Starr, fullback, Jack Dixon and Hallam Amos, centres,Dominic Franchi,wing and Dan Goode, tighthead, all play for the Dragons 16s and have all had the experience of training with the Dragons squad.

Charv. What happened?

Hopefully there’ll be a statement soon.

What is the purpose of pro rugby?

It’s a chance for people to see the very best players, and hopefully the very best games. When i was a kid i could go and see my heroes playing the game, whether it was at Rodney Parade or the Welfare Ground in Newbridge, and hopefully that’s what we’re providing now. When i played for both clubs were always expected to be in the clubhouse after the game. It’s vital that the players engage with their supporters. Supporters also have a duty to be respectful to the players, as well though.
We didn’t like the margin of defeat after the Toulouse match, but as the players left the field we could still hear chants of “dragons”, and that’s what we need. Supporters not fans, and we need you to really get behind the region. The away support can be really good, but we need good support at every game, home and away if possible.
I was delighted 2 see the 2 coach load of supporters(all wearing Toby Faletau wigs) up at High Wycombe v Wasps though we let them all down with our 2nd half performance. They showed how it meant a lot to them as they had travelled in difficult conditions to get to the game and support the team. I would like to thank them personally because that was another step in the right direction for us all be it off the field!!!!!!!!

Ground plans. On track?

That’s not really my area……You’ll have to ask Martyn!!!!!

Thanks a lot for your time, Paul. I know everyone here really appreciates it.

990 days ago

CHANGE OF PLAN!!! - Help us, Obi wan, you're our only hope.

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There has been a change of plan for Sunday

Because the weather forecast has changed for Sunday night and temperatures are set to drop to -6, we are having to leave the snow on top of the covers until Monday morning. Obviously this is an even more mammoth task but equipment has been drafted in to help.

The dig starts at 9am and any supporter arriving before 10am can have a free ticket for the game and a voucher for a pint of Worthington’s. Supporters who have already bought their tickets for the game will be given a voucher that they can exchange for a ticket to any game of their choice during the remainder of the season.

If you can attend the revised day and time, please email charlotte.moriarty_at_rodneyparadeltd.com or phone 01633 674953 to confirm your name and the number in your party. Alternatively, you can join the event on Facebook.

“We estimate that there will be about 500 tonnes of snow to be shifted, and therefore we need volunteers in their hundreds. We know this is a lot to ask of the Rodney faithful who already do so much for the boys, but we want this game to go ahead. The best chance the boys have of beating the Blues is on their own patch in front of the Rodney Parade supporters.”

Supporters are asked to bring as many shovels, wheelbarrows and pairs of hands possible. Hot drinks and food will be provided.

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