The Ospreys brains trust of Scott Johnson, Jonathan Humphreys and Sean Holley
The Dragons will face an Ospreys side stacked with international talent at Rodney Parade tomorrow evening in a Magners League clash which could shape both team's seasons. (KO 6.30pm)
The entire Ospreys starting squad possesses international experience with two All Blacks, one Irish star, one Scottish representative and 11 Welsh capped players entering the fray.
The Dragons will be looking to add the Ospreys to their ever increasing list of major scalps at their home ground. The mighty Munster have already been on the receiving end of a thumping in the heart of Gwent and Paul Turner's men will be aiming to put clear daylight between themselves and Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets as the race for three automatic places for European rugby next season hots up.
The Ospreys know a defeat would drag them right back down into the dogfight but with a game in hand they would fancy their chances of making it to safety. And with a daunting Heineken Cup campaign on the horizon, the Ospreys would feel better going into Europe with a good Magners League campaign behind them.
Ospreys coach, Jonathan Humphreys, commented, "This weekend's game is the start of a busy period that will shape the season for us. We've got at least seven games to go over as many weeks, but we want to extend that, with as many as four additional games to come if we can progress through the knockout stages of both competitions.
"In particular, the next three weeks promise to be a real test, with Welsh derbies against the Dragons and Scarlets followed by away matches against Biarritz, Ulster and Leinster.
"We know what we have to do during this period, it's a real test, but we're all excited about it. This is what rugby is about at this level, and if you have the ambitions and aspirations that we have here at the Ospreys, to be competing and involved in competitions at the business end, it's a pressure that you have to learn how to cope with.
"We've got our international players back with has increased our options, and it's important that the players coming back are able to switch straight back in to Ospreys mode. They've been away from our environment for a while, but we've got a good atmosphere here, a close knit group and they are enjoying being back in the family, so there are no concerns there.
"They realise they've got to be focussed, switched on and ready for action because there's no room for slip-ups over the next few weeks.
"The Dragons will be a real tough test for us at Rodney Parade, they always are. You've only got to look at their results there so far this season, and the quality of teams who've left there defeated, most notably Munster recently.
It's a difficult place to go and get a result, they will be up for it and their crowd will do their best to make life hard for us, but we have to thrive on that, we need to ensure that we are professional, on top of our game, and focussed on the job in hand."
Dragons: Martyn Thomas, Will Harries, Matthew Watkins, Ashley Smith, Aled Brew, Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans, Hugh Gustafson, Tom Willis (Capt), Pat Palmer, Rob Sidoli, Luke Charteris, Danny Lydiate, Gavin Thomas, Toby Faletau Replacements: Steve Jones, Ben Castle, Andrew Coombs, Hoani Macdonald, Tom Riley, James Arlidge, James Leadbeater.
Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne 14 Tommy Bowe 13 Andrew Bishop 12 James Hook 11 Nikki Walker 10 Dan Biggar 9 Mike Phillips; 1 Paul James 2 Huw Bennett 3 Adam Jones 4 Jonathan Thomas 5 Ian Evans 6 Jerry Collins 7 Marty Holah 8 Ryan Jones (Capt)
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard 17 Ryan Bevington 18 Ian Gough 19 Filo Tiatia 20 Jamie Nutbrown 21 Sonny Parker 22 Gareth Owen
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.