Dragons head coach Paul Turner insists consistency will be the key to his side’s chances of success in the new Magners League season.
Turner’s men finished seventh last season, only narrowly missing out on a Play-Off spot having been in contention for a top-four place all the way until the very final game of the campaign.
The Dragons were arguably the biggest surprise of the season last time out, securing impressive victories against many of the league’s more fancied outfits.
Among their victims were champions-in-waiting the Ospreys, Heineken Cup holders Leinster and reigning Magners League champs Munster, all of whom were made to look decidedly second best by the Dragons.
Fellow Play-Off semi-finalists Glasgow Warriors also experienced defeat to Turner’s charges, as did Edinburgh, Ulster and Connacht, yet all these results had one thing in common – they all came at home.
Glasgow and Munster had similarly impressive home records and Leinster topped the lot by going unbeaten at the RDS for the entire regular season but few would have bet on the Dragons performing so well so regularly at Rodney Parade.
The Men of Gwent finished the season with a truly outstanding home record, winning seven and losing just two of their nine Magners League fixtures, but it was a different story on the road.
The failure to turn promise into a Play-Off spot came through an appalling away record, one that featured just a single win and one draw – an issue which Turner admits needs addressing if the Dragons are to challenge for honours this time around.
“I think both as management and players we need to be more consistent and look to play as well away from home as we do at Rodney Parade,” Turner, who is currently preparing his side for their league opener at Connacht on September 4, told a fans’ forum on the official Dragons website.
“We want to carry on with the style we have developed but also develop that hard edge where we are more than capable of winning games that are in the balance. We also need to develop an away winning mentality.
“I wouldn’t say we are underrated because, talking to opposition coaches and players, they never have an easy time at Rodney Parade. But as I have said before we need to sort our away form out.
“Can we compete with the likes of Leinster and the Ospreys for the title? We do seem to be behind the big teams. These teams are now major European forces and, with the size and quality of their squads as well as the financial institutions that back them, it is difficult.
“Sides like the Blues and Munster are also big European teams and have proved that over the last few years. The Dragons proved last season that we are more than capable of beating these sides, I think we just have to be more consistent.”
The Dragons have often been written off as the fourth Welsh region, with critics preferring to focus their attention on the Ospreys, Blues and Scarlets, but last season’s efforts have reminded the doubters that there is an abundance of potential at Rodney Parade.
The development of a new training complex at Newport High School and the progress of youngsters such as Jason Tovey and Will Harries, together with the form of established players such as internationals Gavin Thomas and Luke Charteris, have simply confirmed Turner’s belief that the future of the Dragons is being built on solid foundations.
“I have always felt there has been great potential at the Dragons,” added Turner.
“We enjoyed a lot of success last season and a number of players got the recognition they deserve.
“I have a good and honest staff working with me and loyal guys like Martyn Hazell, Jim McCreedy and Rob Beale around. It is always a tough job because the expectations, I know that because of my time at Newport as a player, but the rugby world has changed and we have no divine right to just win.
“Finance is a huge part of the game today but, having worked for organisations like Saracens, Harlequins and Gloucester, money is very important but it is not the be all and end all. The working environment is the most important thing and you have to enjoy going to work each morning.
“We have a great environment at Rodney Parade with the Dragons. The new facilities at Newport High School have been a major factor in that. The business has got to move with the times if it wants to keep in touch with the moving rugby world.
“On Boxing Day last year, where we had a game the next day, we had to find out if the Sainsbury’s car park was available for our team run because the pitches were frozen! But the facilities at Newport High School have certainly changed that.
“I am still very passionate about the region and my main ambition is to develop it further. Robert Beale and I are of the same mind – we are both local boys and can see the potential of rugby in Gwent. Developing that is our main priority.”