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It’s 21 Months Since The Dragons Won Back-To-Back Games . . . Not Good Enough, Says Warren Gatland

The Dragons have been told they need to improve their success rate if they are to get more players into the Wales squad.

The blunt message comes from Warren Gatland as the region face a pivotal test of their strength or otherwise with a Friday night home clash against Northampton in the European Challenge Cup.

Having thrashed Timisoara Saracens 54-17 in their opening match, and enjoyed a win rate of 50 per cent from their last six matches, the Dragons were hopeful of increased numbers in Gatland’s squad for the autumn internationals.

Six players made the squad – Cory Hill, Elliot Dee, Aaron Wainwright, Tyler Morgan, Leon Brown and Ross Moriarty, who moved from Gloucester over the summer – but there was no place for flanker Ollie Griffiths, full-back Jordan Williams, centre Jack Dixon or back row Harrison Keddie who have all been mentioned as Wales possibles at one time or another.

Gatland says the key to more representation is more consistency from a team that often wins one week and loses the next. The Dragons have not put back-to-back victories together for 21 months.

Asked about Griffiths’ omission this week, Gatland said: “The answer to him would be to just keep doing what he is doing, keep playing well and competing on the ball – and get the Dragons winning more. That makes a difference.

“If you look at the squad that we have selected we have picked a tight-head, a hooker, a second row and two back rowers already, so if you pick three of the Dragons back row then you say ‘hang on, you’ve got a lot of representation in the national squad, you’ve got to start performing.

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“Sometimes it is as plain as that, it’s not about individuals, it’s collectively as a team getting a performance and results.

“There is no doubt about Ollie being a quality athlete and I was impressed with him against the Blues when he competed over the ball, got a number of turnovers and carried well.

“It’s unfortunate [for him] that we have that luxury of some real depth in that position and some real competition.

“Because you’ve missed out on this campaign, and this is the message to a number of players, doesn’t mean your World Cup bid is over. Just keep working hard and hopefully you will get another opportunity.

“That might not be until the World Cup extended squad is picked because we saw in 2011 and 2015 that a number of players who were involved for that two-month period really developed as individuals and ended up becoming number ones in their position.

“The message is just keep working hard and doing what you are doing.”

Captain Cory Hill has been recalled by Dragons and will make his 100th appearance for the region.

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The Dragons have made make five changes following their win in Romania. Hill partners Lewis Evans in the second row while Aaron Wainwright returns in the back row.

Jordan Williams starts at full back with Jared Rosser fit again to play on the wing and Rhodri Williams returns at scrum-half.

Northampton will include Wales fly-half Dan Biggar in their starting line-up and there is a return for former England forward Tom Wood who plays his first match since March after a groin injury.

Dragons: Jordan Williams, Zane Kirchner, Tyler Morgan, Jarryd Sage, Jared Rosser, Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Lewis Evans, Cory Hill (c), Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths, Ross Moriarty

Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor, Rhodri Davies, Adam Warren, Will Talbot-Davies

Northampton Saints: Ahsee Tuala, Tom Collins, Andrew Kellaway, Piers Francis, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Dan Biggar, Alex Mitchell; Alex Waller (captain), Mikey Haywood, Ben Franks, David Ribbans, Courtney Lawes, Jamie Gibson, Tom Wood, Teimana Harrison

Replacements: James Fish, Francois Van Wyk, Ehren Painter, Dom Barrow, Lewis Ludlam, Cobus Reinach, James Grayson, Luther Burrell

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas, Mathieu Noirot (France)

TMO: Gareth John (Wales)


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