Dragons make nine changes for clash against Sale

NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have made nine changes from the team that defeated Connacht in last Friday night’s Celtic League clash for tomorrow’s Heineken Cup Pool One match against Sale Sharks.

Aled Thomas replaces Sione Tuipulotu at full back, with the Tongan international moving to centre in place of Jon Bryant. Gareth Chapman is ruled out with a bruised ankle so Richard Fussell comes in on the wing. Ceri Sweeney comes in for Craig Warlow, while Gareth Baber replaces Gareth Cooper at scrum half.

In the forwards David Maddocks replaces Adam Black, Gethin Robinson is named in place of Rhys Thomas, Bryn Griffiths replaces Ian Gough at lock while Michael Owen takes over the captaincy from Jason Forster, who is replaced by Jamie Ringer.

Sale have named their strongest team for the trip, as they aim regain top spot.

Daniel Larrachea returns to the full-back slot, displacing Jason Robinson to the wing, while Oriol Ripol drops out of the squad altogether. Also in the backs, Mark Taylor returns in place of Robert Todd, who follows Ripol.

England hopeful Magnus Lund is in the number seven shirt, moving Chris Jones to the second row, where he teams up with Dean Schofield.

Philippe Saint-Andre has continued his successful campaign to secure the signatures of the current squad at Premiership leaders Sharks, announcing that three of their most promising young players have agreed to extend their contracts. Sililo Martens (scrum half), Christian Day (lock) and Nathan Bonner-Evans (back row) have all signed with the club until 2008.

Saint-Andre said: “This is only my second season at Sale, and after all the enforced changes of last year it is essential that we have a period of stability when our core squad can develop together as a team.

“We have had a great start to the season, but I genuinely believe that we can improve by another 20% simply by working together and growing together. I have an exceptional group of players here at Sale, perhaps with the best potential of any club I have ever been at. Naturally, others are looking to take away my players and it is sometimes hard to keep everyone, particularly when other clubs are offering more money.

“But the players sense that we are the coming force in rugby and that is why they want to stay with us.”

SALE SHARKS: D Larrechea, M Cueto, M Taylor, E Seveali’i, J Robinson (capt), C Hodgson, S Martens, A Sheridan, S Bruno, B Stewart, C Jones, D Schofield, J White, M Lund, S Chabal.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: A Thomas, R Fussell, H Luscombe, S Tuipulotu, B Breeze, C Sweeney, G Baber, D Maddocks, S Jones, G Robinson, B Griffiths, P Sidoli, A Hall, J Ringer, M Owen (capt).

Referee: Rob Dickson (Scotland).

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