Wales centre Andy Marinos has been ruled out of Friday night's Principality Cup quarter-final against Cardiff at the Arms Park. Marinos has had his right hand put in plaster after dislocating a finger in the Lloyds TSB Six Nations defeat by England at Twickenham last weekend.
"Andy was hoping to recover in time to help us to defend our Principality Cup title, but we are not prepared to risk him. He is too important to both club and country," said Newport team manager Jim McCreedy.
"At this stage we don't know whether or not he will be fit for Wales to face Scotland next week, but we are obviously concerned to have him in tip-top condition for the run in to the Welsh/Scottish League title and for the final rounds of the cup, if we win at the Arms Park."
While Marinos has been ruled out, definitely ruled in are Wales locks Ian Gough and Mike Voyle and Wales Under 21 No 8 Andy Powell. But another Wales Under 21 cap, Nathan Brew, will be out for a month after damaging his ankle.
The back line injuries mean that Matthew Watkins and Jon Pritchard will play at centre with Ben Breeze and Matt Mostyn figuring on the wings. Gough has recovered from the back injury that forced him to miss the game at Twickenham last weekend, while Voyle has returned from New Zealand where
his wife recently gave birth to their second child. Powell injured his right hand in the Wales Under 21 triumph over England at Newbury last Friday night, but he has been passed fit to play.
Further good news for Newport is that Powell, the most exciting young forward in Wales, has signed a new deal with the club that will keep him at Rodney Parade until 2005.Despite going into the quarter-final as the holders of the Principality Cup, Newport realise the enormity of the task facing them at the Arms Park.
"We are all aware of Cardiff's incredible record at home. In 72 games since December 1997 they have won 68 and drawn one," said McCreedy.
"They have won 10 of our last 13 meetings and we have to go back to 25 November, 1995 for our last win in the Welsh capital. That said, we will be travelling full of confidence and with a squad of players capable of winning the game."
As well as a capable squad of players, Newport will also have an army of 4,000+ black and amber fans. The club sold more than 3,000 tickets for the inter-city Good Friday clash by Monday and more are expected to turn up on the night.
"The battle off the field is going to be as hot as the one on it. The Newport fans have become a huge part of the club's push for success and their vocal backing will play a huge part on the night," added McCreedy.
Newport Rugby: Matt Pini; Matt Mostyn, Matthew Watkins, Jon Pritchard, Ben Breeze; Shane Howarth, Ofisa Tonu'u; Rod Snow, James Richards, Chris Anthony, Simon Raiwalui (captain), Ian Gough, Peter Buxton, Jason Forster, Andy Powell.
Replacements (from): Adrian Garvey, Ceri Jones, Paul Young, Joe Powell, Mike Voyle, Alix Popham, Hal Luscombe, Jason Strange, Dale Burn.
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.