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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Season preview: Gwent Dragons
By Sean Davies

The Newport Gwent Dragons will bear two unwanted tags at the start of the regional rugby era.

Dragons coach Mike Ruddock and captain Andy Marinos
Celtic League: 10th
Celtic Cup: Semi-final exit
Heineken Cup: 1st round exit
Having certainly proved the most argumentative, the east Wales side will also be considered the weakest of the five new teams.

Aside from Springbok star Percy Montgomery - who will be suspended until December - there are no big names or recognised game breakers in the squad.

However, there are proven, experienced campaigners in a line-up that will barely be touched by the demands of the World Cup in Australia.

The Dragons will also have their fire expertly directed by Mike Ruddock, a coach sure to make the most of the limited resources at his disposal.

Despite that, it is difficult to see the Gwent team having the armoury to compete with the best.

Steve Winn
One to watch: Steve Winn
When Newport found success in recent seasons it was through a bullying front five, able to rough it with the best packs in northern hemisphere rugby.

The regional team has lost the services of Adrian Garvey, Mike Voyle and Simon Raiwalui, and, with little to suggest their creative game has advanced greatly, a difficult season lies ahead.

The Dragons can be expected to be a team of scrappers, capable of the occasional upset against incautious foes, particularly in the early months of the season.

Expect their Celtic League form to fade after a brave early challenge, and there could be a surprise tilt at the Celtic Cup - starting with a shock first-round upset at Stradey Park.

In the Heineken Cup they will be lucky to come away with a point from a strong group containing Leicester, Ulster and Stade Francais.

Full-backs: Richard Davies, Percy Montgomery, Brett Davey
Three-quarters: Hal Luscombe, Kevin James, Andy Marinos, Steve Winn, Nathan Brew, Ben Breeze, Gerald Arasa, Rhys Shorney
Fly-halves: Lee Jarvis, Craig Warlow
Scrum-halves: Gareth Baber, Rhodri Jones (from Swansea), Bryan Shelbourne
Props: Rod Snow, Adam Black, Chris Anthony, Rhys Thomas, Dai Pattison
Hookers: Paul Young, Steve Jones, Keiron Crawford
Locks: Peter Sidoli, Ian Gough, Michael Owen, Martin Morgan, Neil Edwards, Luke Charteris
Back rows: Rhys Williams, Jamie Ringer, Jason Forster, Shawn van Rensburg, Rhys Oakley (from Bristol), Ross Beattie (from Bristol)

Transfer stories
Captain: Andy Marinos
Coach: Mike Ruddock
Assistant coach: Clive Griffiths
Team colours: Black and red
Premier League team coaches: Gareth Nicholas (Ebbw Vale), Darryl Jones (Newport)
Chief Executive: David Jenkins
Ground: Rodney Parade



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