Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards admits his side are down to the bare bones – but he believes there will be fire in their bellies as they look to secure their first win of the RaboDirect PRO12 season against Aironi on Saturday.
Edwards is missing a host of players, currently away on international duty, while tighthead prop Ben Castle and centreJamie Smith have been ruled out of action for two months and four weeks respectively.
It means that the Dragons will only have one full-back – Martyn Thomas – at their disposal on Saturday while the burden already placed on fledgling prop duo Dan Way and Nathan Buck is made heavier.
“It’s the curse of my tighthead prop and my full-back,” lamented head coach Darren Edwards, who has already lost No.15 Ashley Smith and No.8 Tom Brown to injury.
“Ben’s injury is a big blow because the scrum is an area that we have been working hard on and we are starting to see some returns.
“Nathan Buck is probably in about a year sooner than we’d like but it’s a case of sink or swim.
“I have a very small group of backs and to lose Ashley Smith and now Jamie is a blow. But I can’t moan, I have to just deal with it.”
But Edwards believes the likes of Andrew Coombs, Mike Poole and Darren Waters, who might not have got their chance had it not been for the injuries and international call-ups, can produce the goods.
“I think Darren is one to watch out for,” said Edwards. “He’s a hard boy and a destructive seven in the mould of Gavin Thomas.
“Andrew Coombs, Mike Poole, these boys are mentally and physically tough, it’s just shaping them into top-level rugby players.”