Grif­fiths makes re­turn to ranks for Dragons to boost Wales bid

South Wales Echo - - RUGBY UNION -

WAR­REN Gat­land has re­ceived a timely boost in the wake of Sam War­bur­ton’s lat­est in­jury blow from one of Wales’ likely lads.

For Ol­lie Grif­fiths, who made his Test de­but against Tonga three months ago, has been de­clared fit to make his re­turn from in­jury.

The Dragons open­side flanker was forced off with a dam­aged hip dur­ing a su­per-charged dis­play against Glas­gow War­riors in a pre-sea­son friendly.

And his ap­pear­ance for the Gwent re­gion against Con­nacht in the Guin­ness PRO14 at New­port’s Rod­ney Pa­rade tonight will please Wales coach Gat­land.

The Kiwi’s back-row re­sources for the au­tumn Tests with Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Ge­or­gia and South Africa have been de­pleted with Lions skip­per Sam War­bur­ton, fel­low Lions Ross Mo­ri­arty, El­lis Jenk­ins and James Davies on the long-term in­jury list.

Blues pair War­bur­ton (neck) and Jenk­ins (ham­string), and Scar­lets star Davies (shoul­der) are all out of the Novem­ber in­ter­na­tion­als while there are wor­ries over the se­ri­ous­ness of the back prob­lem which forced Mo­ri­arty home early from the Lions tour of New Zealand.

Grif­fiths has been backed to state his case to fill the place va­cated in the Wales back-row by War­bur­ton.

“If you look at Ol­lie as an ath­lete I think there are not many bet­ter than him in Wales,” de­clared for­mer Wales prop and Dragons for­wards coach Ceri Jones.

“It would be a huge chal­lenge for him, tak­ing that step up to in­ter­na­tional rugby but I feel he is ready for it.

“Ol­lie was out­stand­ing last sea­son for us so to have him back in the mix is great. We just want him to put con­sis­tent per­for­mances in for us, then it’s down to the Welsh selec­tors to have a look at him.”

Livewire South African scrum-half Sarel Pre­to­rius re­turns from the ham­string in­jury which kept him out of PRO14 de­feats to Le­in­ster and Ed­in­burgh.

Dragons head hon­cho Bernard Jack­man, the for­mer Ire­land hooker who made his name as a player with Con­nacht, has made three changes to the team that lost at Ed­in­burgh.

In ad­di­tion to the in­clu­sion of Grif­fiths, Jack Dixon joins Tyler Mor­gan at cen­tre, while Pre­to­rius part­ners Gavin Hen­son at full-back as the Dragons bid to avoid ex­tend­ing their record run of straight de­feats in the league to 12.

Con­nacht coach Kieran Keane has made a num­ber of changes to the side that se­cured a bonus-point win against South­ern Kings with Rory Sc­holes, Caolin Blade, De­nis Coul­son, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux and Jake Heenan mak­ing their first starts of the sea­son.

The 2015-16 PRO12 cham­pi­ons are ex­pect­ing a tough chal­lenge in New­port with as­sis­tant coach Nigel Carolan say­ing: “Bernard Jack­man is try­ing to re­build the Dragons and cre­ate a strong iden­tity, much like he did in Greno­ble.

“They will be a tight-knit group and very dif­fi­cult to play against. They have some real fire­power with Ash­ton He­witt, Zane Kirch­ner, and the boot of Hen­son.

“It is go­ing to be a very dif­fi­cult game for us and we have to make sure we build on last week and are more ef­fec­tive than we were against the Kings.”

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