European Challenge Cup: Edinburgh expecting tough Dragons test

Gunners head coach Alan Solomons is confident his players can defeat in-form Welsh region to reach maiden European semi-final

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Edinburgh defeated the Dragons 24-10 at BT Murrayfield in October Photo: Jason O'Callaghan

Alan Solomons expects Edinburgh Rugby to face a tough examination when they host Newport Gwent Dragons in the European Challenge Cup semi-final on Friday night.

The Gunners boss is impressed by what the Welsh region have achieved in recent weeks, which includes a stunning comeback to do the double over reigning Guinness PRO12 champions Leinster at Rodney Parade.

Lyn Jones has led his young Dragons side to stunning away wins at Stade Francais and Newcastle Falcons in Europe, while they have also claimed the scalp of Ulster recently in the Guinness PRO12.

Edinburgh meanwhile suffered a 34-3 defeat at the hands of Munster at BT Murrayfield, but Solomons insists some of the issues with the lineout and countering the driving maul from that game have been resolved after a debrief with Scottish Rugby’s referee expert Tappe Henning.

Solomons has had to battle a consistently lengthy injury list in his second season in charge, while off the field the loss of their strength and conditioning coach and defence coach also hasn’t helped.

And the South African insists that their success in Europe this year is down to everyone at the club pulling together despite the loss of key players, including Scottish internationals Matt Scott, David Denton and Grant Gilcrhist.

While the Dragons have made just one personnel change in the front row, Edinburgh have made five personnel changes – and two positional changes – with regular centre Phil Burleigh making just his third start for the club at outside-half ahead of Worcester Warriors-bound Tom Heathcote.

Rather than see the move as a gamble, Solomons believes that the former Highlanders man has the talent to do a job for the Gunners as they look to book a place at the Challenge Cup final against Gloucester or Exeter Chiefs on Friday 1 May.

Solomons also welcomes back loose forward Cornell du Preez, who suffered a serious lower leg injury against the Dragons in the 24-10 PRO12 win in October, but the South African has to make do with a place on the bench as he starts his return to action with Stuart McInally reverting to blindside flanker.

Edinburgh: Jack Cuthbert; Dougie Fife, Sam Beard, Andries Strauss, Tim Visser; Phil Burleigh, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis, Stuart McInally, Roddy Grant, Mike Coman (captain).

Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Fraser McKenzie, Cornell du Preez; Nathan Fowles, Tom Heathcote, Tom Brown.

Newport Gwent Dragons: Jason Tovey; Tom Prydie, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos; Dorian Jones, Jonathan Evans; Brok Harris, T Rhys Thomas (captain), Dan Way, James Thomas, Cory Hill, Nick Crosswell, Nic Cudd, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, James Benjamin; Luc Jones, Ashton Hewitt, Geraint Rhys Jones.

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