Time for Dragons locks to step up in absence of inspirational leader Rowlands

LEADER: Will Rowlands has been inspirational for the Dragons so far this season
LEADER: Will Rowlands has been inspirational for the Dragons so far this season

WILL Rowlands has taken his Wales form into club rugby to lead from the front but the Dragons will look to cope without their talisman in Treviso on Sunday.

The giant lock did not feature for the Rodney Parade club in pre-season but, after being named co-captain with Harri Keddie, slotted straight into the starting line-up at Edinburgh.

Rowlands couldn’t prevent a shocker in the Scottish capital but he has been at the heart of stirring efforts against Munster and the Sharks on home soil.

The Dragons have played with aggression and intensity to stun the Irish province 23-17 and push the South Africans all the way when edged out 20-19 by a late converted try.

Rowlands has carried 24 times (the 22nd most in the URC), made 33 tackles (11th), won three turnovers (fifth) and stolen two lineouts (third).

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“Will is great on and off the pitch, there are no egos at this club,” said lock/blindside George Nott. “The boys really respect him – when he talks, we listen.

“He leads from the front. You see that not only with his performances with Wales in the summer, when I thought he was incredible, but for us this season. He leads and we follow.”

Rowlands moved from Wasps last summer in order to push his Test claims and it’s mission accomplished on that front.

The 31-year-old started all three international clashes against the Springboks in the summer after being a leading light in an up-and-down 2021/22 for Wayne Pivac’s men.

That means that the Dragons have to pick their games carefully for the captain with his minutes managed by the national coaching team.

Big home games in front of the loyal punters and derby clashes have the ticks put next to them first, then it’s the odd other encounter.

Rowlands will sit out the trip to Treviso, come back to face Cardiff and the Ospreys and then get ready for the autumn internationals.

The lock will be sorely missed on Sunday but this is a situation that the Dragons management knew was coming.

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In the summer they moved to reduce the drop-off in quality by bringing in Sean Lonsdale and Nott from Exeter and London Irish respectively, a pair of Wales-qualified bruisers with plenty of English Premiership experience.

They have started well, displaying a real appetite for graft, and they will be monitored by the national management if they continue to impress such is the importance of hybrid back-five forwards in World Cup cycles.

It’s early days but Lonsdale and Nott look to be shrewd signings to join young Wales international Ben Carter as leading options.

Dependable Joe Davies has shown himself to be up for the fight in past seasons and will want to keep racking up the appearances while Huw Taylor, who did well when moved forward from flanker at the end of last season, is keeping sharp with Bedford in the English Championship.

The Dragons have done their planning for this weekend, hence Lonsdale sat out the Sharks game with an eye on Benetton.

Rowlands is a quality lock who would be in the mix for the Lions were a squad being selected at the end of this season.

It is inevitable that such a presence will be missed but the Dragons need the captain’s fellow locks to get as close as possible to his big impact.