Griffiths makes return to ranks for Dragons to boost Wales bid
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.”