DRAGONS boss Dai Flanagan has declared the experiment of trying James Benjamin at hooker is over – because the ball-playing forward is now a bona fide front rower.
The 28-year-old made his first start for the Rodney Parade club as a hooker in last weekend’s 33-25 defeat to the Lions in Johannesburg.
The Wales Sevens international, who was previously trialled as a centre, made the switch from the back row in 2020.
Benjamin was sent for experience in the English Championship with Cornish Pirates and Hartpury along with chances off the bench for the Dragons.
He returns to being a replacement against the Stormers this weekend but that is not a reflection on his performance in the first game of the South Africa tour, merely because Wales international Bradley Roberts has joined up with the squad.
“Jumbo is one of the most talented players in the squad and they tried to change him from 7 to 12 initially and now he’s gone to 2,” said head coach Flanagan.
“I wouldn’t even say he is a developing hooker after that performance against the Lions, he’s made the switch now.
“He stood up and said that he is ready to play and for us to build that depth out here is great. What a place to come and test yourself – against South African packs in South Africa.
“Mefin Davies is an extremely good scrum coach and Luke Narraway is an extremely good lineout coach. They are working hard with him to make sure he is developing and we saw that with the way he stepped in and played.”
Roberts comes into the pack along with lock Matthew Screech and blindside Huw Taylor as the Dragons look to beef up their lineout.
Flanagan tinkers in the backs with Max Clark getting the nod at inside centre and Jordan Williams, a full-back by trade, replacing injured David Richards on the right wing.
There is a new half-back partnership with Rhodri Williams declared fit to start at scrum-half and JJ Hanrahan selected at fly-half.
Co-captain Harri Keddie is fit to return as a replacement and is joined on the bench by promising playmaker Will Reed.
Dragons: Angus O’Brien; Sio Tomkinson, Steff Hughes, Max Clark, Jordan Williams; JJ Hanrahan, Rhodri Williams; Aki Seiuli, Bradley Roberts, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Sean Lonsdale, Huw Taylor, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty (captain).
Replacements: James Benjamin, Josh Reynolds, Chris Coleman, Harri Keddie, Ben Fry, Lewis Jones, Will Reed, Aneurin Owen.