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.
A special video package as Pontypridd claimed the double for the first time in their history by winning the Principality Premiership final, including match build-up, highlights, post match reaction and dressing room celebrations.