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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Season preview: Newport Gwent Dragons
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport

After setting their sights so high last season, it has been a real case of cutting coats to suit cloths at Rodney Parade.

Paul Turner faces a difficult rebuilding job at the Dragons
Celtic League: 8th
Powergen Cup: Group stage
Heineken Cup: Group stage
Tony Brown has withdrawn his financial backing and, although the books have been left in good order, the fiscal clout that brought the likes of Percy Montgomery to Newport has been removed.

Many will not see this as a thing to lament, with a widespread feeling that Monty was doing little more than picking up his pay cheques last season.

The strive for big names also brought World Cup-winning rugby league coach Chris Anderson to the Dragons, but the hard-talking Aussie seemed to spend most of the year wondering what those extra two players were supposed to do up front.

In contrast, new coach Paul Turner is a true rugby man of Gwent, someone who at last seems willing to acknowledge that a region exists beyond the bounds of Newport.

Ian Gough will need to lead a gritty forward effort to keep the Dragons competitive
Key player: Ian Gough
The former Wales fly-half's recruitment policy has been as uninspiring as his budget, though.

A host of youngsters have been drafted in from the academy and the Welsh Premiership, while Andrew Hall (Glasgow), Leigh Hinton (Bedford) and David Maddocks and Bryn Grifffiths (both Scarlets) will find it hard to match the appeal of summer-departees Montgomery and Rod Snow.

But in relying on Welsh talent, Turner is going back to basics.

He is an experienced coach who knows the strengths of Welsh rugby, who will concentrate on building a solid base, and who will try to make Rodney Parade a feared fortress.

Turner has a long-term plan and has spoken about the importance of improving the stadium and developing a dedicated training base for the region.

But he seems to accept that this year will be about rebuilding, and his young, slim-line squad looks ill-equipped to cope with the demands of a punishing season.

David Maddocks must raise his game to replace Rod Snow at Rodney Parade
One to watch: David Maddocks
They can expect little change out of Sale, Munster and Castres in the Heineken Cup, while Leicester, Northampton and Worcester also look too powerful in the Powergen.

The Dragons will need to channel their efforts into the Celtic League, but even there the aim could be to finish above the worst of the Scottish and Irish teams.

That could open the back-door entry to 2006/7 Heineken Cup qualification through an Italian play-off, the route exploited by Cardiff Blues last season.

In: Paul Turner (new coach, joins from Harlequins), Bryn Griffiths (Scarlets), Aled Thomas (Carmarthen Quins), Chris Davies (Bridgend), James Ireland, Gethin Robinson, Kieran Crawford (all Newport), Richard Fussell (Pontypridd, development contract), Ricky Williams, Richard Dale, Ben Thompson (all Newport, development contracts), Andrew Hall (Glasgow), David Maddocks (Scarlets), Andrew Coombs (Pontypool, development contract), Leigh Hinton (Bedford)

Out: Chris Anderson (coach, released), Andy Marinos (leaving as chief executive), Rod Snow (retired), Percy Montgomery (Natal Sharks), Paul Young (retired), James Richards (released)

Captain: Jason Forster
Coach: Paul Turner
Assistant coaches: Leigh Jones, Dai Rees
Team colours: Black, white and red
Ground: Rodney Parade



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