Dragons (rugby union)

Last updated

Dragons (rugby union) logo.svg
Location Newport and Ebbw Vale, Wales
Ground(s) Rodney Parade (Capacity: 8,700)
ChairmanDavid Buttress
Director of Rugby Dean Ryan
Captain(s) Rhodri Williams
Most caps Lewis Evans (220)
Top scorer Jason Tovey (974)
Most tries Aled Brew (43)
League(s) Pro14
2019–20 5th (Conference B)
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Kit body.svg
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
1st kit
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2nd kit
Official website

Dragons (Welsh : Dreigiau) are one of the four professional rugby union regional teams in Wales. They are owned by the Welsh Rugby Union and play their home games at Rodney Parade, Newport and at other grounds around the region. They play in the Pro14 league and the European Rugby Champions Cup/European Rugby Challenge Cup. The region they represent covers an area of southeast Wales including Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen with a total population approaching 600,000 and they are affiliated with a number of semi-professional and amateur clubs throughout the area, including Pontypool RFC, Caerphilly RFC, Cross Keys RFC, Ebbw Vale RFC and Newport RFC. [1]


Formed in 2003 as a result of the introduction of regional rugby union teams in Wales, the team started life with a third-place finish in the 2003–04 Celtic League, and finished fourth the next season; however, the team finished in the bottom three in each of the next four seasons. In 2007, they reached the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup, losing to French side ASM Clermont Auvergne 46–29. In 2011, they reached the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, losing to Gloucester. They are yet to make the knock-out stage of the European Rugby Champions Cup.



The regional team were formed on 1 April 2003, following an agreement between Ebbw Vale RFC and Newport RFC to form one of five regional rugby entities. [2] Fundamental disagreements between the clubs [3] saw a period of arbitration, led by the then Welsh Rugby Union chief executive David Moffett, which recommended the name "Gwent Dragons". On 28 July the side was launched under that name. [4] This prompted Newport RFC benefactor Tony Brown of Bisley, Surrey to withdraw his financial support for the region. However, by 21 August Brown returned after Ebbw Vale chairman Marcus Russell resigned and the side's name was changed to "Newport and Gwent Dragons". [5] With the Welsh Rugby Union demanding an explanation for the changes, and acrimony between the two clubs [6] another agreement was struck: [7] the side officially became 'Newport Gwent Dragons'. On 12 November 2003, the region's founding company Gwent Rugby Ltd entered into administration. [8] On 27 November a new company, Dragons Rugby Ltd., was established to run the region, with Newport RFC and the Welsh Rugby Union each holding a 50% stake. [9]

2003–2005: Infancy

The logo used by the regional team between 2003 and 2017. Newport gwent dragons badge.png
The logo used by the regional team between 2003 and 2017.

Under Mike Ruddock and his assistant Clive Griffiths Newport Gwent Dragons, with a squad largely drawn from the Newport RFC and Ebbw Vale RFC sides of the preceding year, beat their limited pre-season expectations. Despite starting their life in top-class rugby with a 35–11 defeat away to Llanelli Scarlets, it was the region's most successful season so far. A 29–19 win over the Ospreys was to prove more telling; captained by Andy Marinos the side remained unbeaten at home in the Celtic League and eliminated Stade Français [10] in the Heineken Cup. Going into the final round with an outside chance of taking the title, the Dragons finished third in the Celtic League [11] WRU bosses were impressed enough to appoint Ruddock to the vacant Welsh coaching job in summer 2004. [12] In 2005, Ruddock guided Wales to a Grand Slam Title in the Six Nations. Ruddock rewarded two of his former Dragons players, Hal Luscombe and Jason Forster, with their first test caps on Wales' summer tour of Argentina. Wales Percy Montgomery also impressed Springbok selectors enough to remind them of his international credentials, and earn a Tri Nations recall.

The following off season saw a marked change in direction. Gareth Cooper, Kevin Morgan and Ceri Sweeney were amongst a handful of players who joined the region when the Celtic Warriors were disbanded. Having originally agreed to replace Mike Ruddock as head coach, Declan Kidney decided instead to seek employment back home with Leinster. It was not until 27 July 2004 that former Australia national rugby league team coach Chris Anderson was appointed, with Leigh Jones as his assistant. Another credible Celtic League campaign followed, finishing fourth, [11] the second highest Welsh region. The side's Heineken Cup could be viewed as a wasted opportunity: the team beat French side Perpignan 27–14 at home, but were then beaten home and away by Newcastle Falcons to put paid to any quarter-final ambitions. Chris Anderson's contract was not extended beyond its initial one-year duration. [13]

2005–2011 Paul Turner era

The region looked to Harlequins backs coach Paul Turner, a Welshman, as their new head coach. [14] Turner would also have to contend with Percy Montgomery returning to South Africa [15] and Newport RFC stalwart Rod Snow retiring. [16] Munster and Sale Sharks proved too strong in the 2005–06 Heineken Cup. After finishing 8th in the Celtic League, a 24–15 defeat [17] Overmach Parma in a play-off for a place in the following seasons Heineken cup proved a new low for the region. Anglo-Welsh Cup wins over Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints were the highlights of a tough season. Turner remained, but Wales international Hal Luscombe opted for a move away from the region, joining English Premiership side Harlequins. [18]

Former Wales captain Colin Charvis joined ahead of the 2006–07 season with the Dragons progressed into a European Challenge Cup semi-final, where they lost comfortably to ASM Clermont Auvergne. Domestically though, the region's European exploits appeared to take their toll, finishing ninth in the Celtic League. Significantly the region avoided the prospect of a second season away from the Heineken Cup, defeating another Italian side Calvisano 22–15. [19] The match also marked the end for departing Wales internationals Ian Gough and Gareth Cooper at Rodney Parade.

2007–08 proved to be another difficult season for the region. Signings such as scrum-half Andy Williams and flanker Richard Parks were not able to help reverse the side's fortunes. The Dragons 2007–08 Heineken Cup campaign only saw one win against Italian side Treviso and exiting the Anglo-Welsh Cup in the pool stages for a third year running. Between completing a double over Llanelli Scarlets on 1 January [20] to defeating the Ospreys on 6 May, [21] the Dragons failed to win a Celtic League game. Despite finishing as the lowest-placed Welsh side in the league [22] the region qualified for next season's Heineken Cup, without having to play off against Italian opposition due to a failure by the Italian League to finish before a specified date. [10]

The summer of 2008 marked a change in the Dragons recruitment policy to a more antipodean focus. [23] Several new signings included New Zealander Tom Willis who was also appointed captain. [24] The 2008–09 Heineken Cup saw visible signs of encouragement for the region. An opening round defeat of Glasgow at Rodney Parade and two respectable defeats to French giants Toulouse, sandwiched between narrow losses against Bath offered hope of arresting decline at Rodney Parade. Domestically in the Celtic League it was a case of same old as consecutive defeats in rearranged matches away at Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys ended any hopes of avoiding finishing as the lowest placed Welsh region and another Heineken Cup play off against Italian opposition. In record appearance holder Adam Black's final game for the side, the Dragons ran out comfortable winners away to Calvisano [25] to secure their place in European rugby's premier tournament for a third season running.

The 2009–10 season brought about significant improvements in results, with the Dragons remaining unbeaten at Rodney Parade in the Celtic League until their final home match, a 20–14 loss to Cardiff Blues. [26] Defeat also brought about the end of the Dragons bid to qualify for the inaugural Celtic League play offs. An improved seventh-place finish did, however, mean automatic qualification for the Heineken cup as the third highest finishing Welsh region. Despite coming close to defeating Gloucester away at Kingsholm and a win at home against Glasgow, back to back losses at Biarritz put paid to the Dragons chances of progressing past the group stages of the Heineken Cup for the first time.


Turner stepped down as head coach in February 2011 with Darren Edwards taking over in a caretaker capacity. [27] In March 2011 Edwards led the Dragons to their first Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final, where they lost to Gloucester. In April 2011 Edwards was appointed Head Coach on a full-time basis. Lyn Jones was appointed to the role of Director of Rugby in 2013 taking over a lot of on field responsibilities. [28] He brought with him then Russia head coach Kingsley Jones who worked with him as a consultant at London Welsh. [29] Edwards left the Dragons in February 2014 [30] while in June, Jones was promoted to the role of head coach. [31]

WRU Ownership: 2017 Onwards

In March 2017, following a vote of Newport RFC shareholders, the Welsh Rugby Union agreed to take over the Newport Gwent Dragons in its entirety as part of a deal that also saw the WRU take ownership of the Rodney Parade ground. [32] Following the takeover, Bernard Jackman was appointed head coach, and on 20 June 2017 it was announced that following the takeover of the region by the WRU, the region would be dropping "Newport Gwent" from its name with immediate effect, becoming known simply as "Dragons". [33] Jackman's endured a difficult first season in charge in 2017-18, with the Dragons recording only two wins in the league. Despite recruiting heavily for the 2018-19 campaign, including Wales forwards Ross Moriarty and Richard Hibbard, results did not improve and Jackman was dismissed in 2019 to be replaced by Dean Ryan.

During the WRU-ownership period, the Dragons signed a large number of English-born players eligible for Wales thanks to parents or grandparents, such as Ross Moriarty, Will Talbot-Davies, Tom Griffiths, Huw Taylor, Nick Tompkins, Joe Maksimyw, Greg Bateman and Will Rowlands.

Team name

The naming of the region's team caused considerable turbulence. [34] Newport Gwent Dragons were a new side created out of the restructuring of Welsh rugby, and represent their designated region, like the Cardiff Blues, the Scarlets and the Ospreys. Some in the Welsh rugby world, such as Bobby Windsor, believed that including the name Newport would alienate some fans in the surrounding valleys. [35] Many supporters in the wider Newport area favoured greater identification with the City of Newport and a continuation of the historic traditions of Newport RFC. [5] Several names were suggested but all were rejected by the WRU. In the end, the WRU decided the region would be called the Gwent Dragons. However, initial response to the new region was mixed, with many fans unsure whether to buy a season ticket for the new side or to stick to their local clubs. [36] The company set up to run the side entered administration before a game had been played, and as a compromise the word "Newport" was added to the team name in a double-sized font, whilst "Gwent" was reduced. This addition and choice of kit added a greater Newport emphasis to the region and polarised the regions' fan base: some supporters of Ebbw Vale, Pontypool, Cross Keys and Newbridge turned their backs on the regional side, claiming that Gwent was no longer being equally represented. [37] This debate continued, with the Dragons being accused of favouritism towards their Newport feeder club rather than the other feeder clubs. [38]

The Newport Action Group, among others, claimed the side has lost more supporters by including the name "Gwent" in its title. The crowds supporting Newport Gwent Dragons averaged 5,154 for the 2005–06 season, [39] whereas in the 2002–03 season, Newport RFC was Wales' best supported club and British rugby's fourth best with an average attendance of 8,302 – behind English Premiership clubs Leicester, Gloucester and Northampton. [40] Although controversy surrounding the naming of the region might be considered petty, rugby in South Wales is deeply divided among hundreds of historic rugby clubs with bitter rivalries. In the 2006–07 season, attendance averaged 5,629 at Rodney Parade.


The kit is supplied by VX3. On the front of the shirt, Monmouthshire Building Society

Home ground

The region's ground is the 8,700 capacity Rodney Parade ground in Newport, where they play the majority of their home games. Games are occasionally hosted at other grounds in Gwent, such as Pontypool Park [41] or Pandy Park (home of Cross Keys RFC). [42] These are usually pre-season or other fixtures, however occasionally league games are taken elsewhere such as in 2017 when a game against local rivals Cardiff Blues was hosted at the Constructaquote Stadium (formerly Virginia Park), home of Caerphilly RFC, due to a fixture clash with Newport County AFC; [43] and during the 2017/18 season when the Dragons hosted a Pro14 game against Edinburgh Rugby in Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale. [43]

As a part of Judgement Day, each season a home game against a rival Welsh rugby region is hosted at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

In preparation for the 2014–15 season the Newport Gwent Dragons agreed a partnership with Caerphilly County Borough Council for the team and coaching staff to use the CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence as the new training base for the 1st team and all other age grade structures within the region. [44] The small stadium at the centre hosts the home matches of the Dragons U23 side, which competes in the Celtic Cup.

Current Pro14 table

2020–21 Pro14 Table view · watch · edit · discuss
Conference A
1 IRFU flag.svg Leinster (CH)161402576285+291823314171
2 IRFU flag.svg Ulster 161402469263+20665348064
3 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys 16808301318-1734391336
4 Flag of Scotland.svg Glasgow Warriors 166010335377-4240472430
5 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons 166010215394-7936502329
6 Flag of Italy.svg Zebre 164012237508-27122690117
Conference B
1 IRFU flag.svg Munster (RU)161402413250+16349267264

IRFU flag.svg Connacht

3 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets 16808319333-1436383439
4 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues 16808265284-1930323136
5 Flag of Scotland.svg Edinburgh 165110247344-9729431429*
6 Flag of Italy.svg Benetton 160115252415-1643453167*
* Cancelled fixture: Edinburgh awarded four match points.
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order: [45]
  1. number of matches won
  2. the difference between points for and points against
  3. the number of tries scored
  4. the most points scored
  5. the difference between tries for and tries against
  6. the fewest red cards received
  7. the fewest yellow cards received
Green background indicates teams that will compete in the Pro14 Final, and also earn a place in the 2021–22 European Champions Cup

Blue background indicates teams outside the play-off places that earn a place in the 2021–22 European Champions Cup
Plain background indicates teams that earn a place in the 2021–22 European Rugby Challenge Cup.
(CH) Champions. (RU) Runners-up. (PO) Champions Cup play-off winners.

    Current squad

    Dragons Pro14 squad [lower-alpha 1]




    Back row






    (c) denotes the team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped players.
    * denotes players qualified to play for Wales on residency or dual nationality.
    ST denotes a player signed on a short-term deal.
    L denotes a player on loan at the club.
    Players and their allocated positions from the Dragons website. [46]
    1. Taking into account signings and departures head of 2019–20 season as listed on List of 2020–21 Pro14 transfers.

    Transition squad

    Dragons Transition squad [lower-alpha 1]


    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dylan Bartlett
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Adam Williams


    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Conor Chapman
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Brodie Coghlan


    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Max Ayling
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Joe Peard
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ed Scragg

    Back row

    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Benji Hoppe
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Oliver Howard
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ben Moa
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Garin Price
    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg George Young


    • None currently named


    • None currently named


    • Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Deon Smith



    (c) denotes the team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped players.
    * denotes players qualified to play for Wales on residency or dual nationality.
    Players and their allocated positions from the Dragons website. [47]
    1. Taking into account signings and departures head of 2020–21 season as listed on List of 2020–21 Pro14 transfers.

    Notable players

    Michael Owen captained Wales in 2005–06 and he led Wales to their first Grand Slam for 27-years in the 2005 Six Nations Championship.

    Lewis Evans has made over 200 appearances for the Dragons. Adam Black, Jamie Ringer, Peter Sidoli, Gareth Wyatt, Steve Jones, Luke Charteris, Wayne Evans, Aled Brew, Ashley Smith, Adam Jones, Hugh Gustafson, Jason Tovey, Robert Sidoli, Phil Price, Adam Hughes, Nic Cudd, Rynard Landman and Matthew Screech have made over one hundred Dragons appearances. Prop Adam Black became the first centurion in Dragons colours during the 2006–07 season.

    Several former players have been capped by the Wales national rugby union team while with the region; props Chris Anthony and Rhys M. Thomas, hookers Steve Jones and Lloyd Burns, second rows Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Andrew Coombs and Cory Hill, flankers Jason Forster, Richard Parks, Jamie Ringer, Gavin Thomas and Dan Lydiate, number eight Michael Owen, Rhys Oakley and Taulupe Faletau, scrum halves Gareth Cooper and Andy Williams, outside half Ceri Sweeney, centres Andy Marinos and Tyler Morgan, wingers Gareth Wyatt, Hal Luscombe, Aled Brew, Will Harries, Tom Prydie, Hallam Amos and fullback Kevin Morgan. Percy Montgomery, Sione Tu'ipulotu, Rod Snow, Mike Hercus, Mike Petri and James Arlidge played internationally for their respective countries whilst with the region.

    Of the current players Ollie Griffiths, Leon Brown, Elliot Dee, Aaron Wainwright, Nick Tompkins, Jonah Holmes and Ross Moriarty have featured in Wales test matches whilst with the region. Tavis Knoyle, Adam Warren, Richard Hibbard, Ryan Bevington, Aaron Jarvis, Rhodri Williams, Dafydd Howells, Sam Davies and Jamie Roberts attained Wales international caps before joining the Dragons.

    British & Irish Lions

    The following players have been selected to play for the British & Irish Lions touring squads while playing for the Dragons.

    PlayerHome UnionTours
    Michael Owen Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales 2005 New Zealand
    Gareth Cooper Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales 2005 New Zealand
    Dan Lydiate Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales 2013 Australia
    Taulupe Faletau Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales 2013 Australia
    Cory Hill Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales 2017 New Zealand

    Head coaches

    Mike Ruddock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2003–2004
    Declan Kidney IRFU flag.svg 2004
    Chris Anderson Flag of Australia (converted).svg 2004–2005
    Paul Turner Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2005–2011
    Darren Edwards Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2011–2014
    Lyn Jones Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2014
    Kingsley Jones Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2014–2017
    Bernard Jackman IRFU flag.svg 2017–2018
    Ceri Jones (interim) Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2018-2019
    Dean Ryan Flag of England.svg 2019–present

    Results and statistics

    Celtic League / Pro12 / Pro14

    2003–04 2216068723rd
    2004–05 2011096504th
    2005–06 2270139458th [n 1]
    2006–07 2080127399th
    2007–08 1871104348th
    2008–09 1870115339th
    2009–10 188195397th
    2010–11 22101117497th
    2011–12 2271146369th
    2012–13 22601642811th
    2013–14 2271145359th
    2014–15 22801410429th
    2015–16 224018102610th
    2016–17 22401872311th
    2017–18 2122178206th (Conference B) [n 2]
    2018–19 2151154266th (Conference B)
    2019–20 15 [n 3] 5192245th (Conference B)
    1. 11 teams were involved in this season, so one team did not play each week and were awarded four points instead. Therefore, each team finished the season with eight more points than the table would seem to warrant.
    2. The competition was split into two conferences of 7 teams each following the increase from 12 to 14 teams.
    3. Only 15 rounds were played during the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. [48]

    Celtic Cup

    2003–04First round Llanelli Scarlets 40 – 6 Newport Gwent Dragons
    2004–05Quarter-finalNewport Gwent Dragons 19 – 46 Llanelli Scarlets

    Heineken Cup / European Rugby Champions Cup

    2003–04 14th620419
    2004–05 53rd6303315
    2005–06 13rd610526
    2007–08 13rd610548
    2008–09 54th610537
    2009–10 24th610526
    2010–11 64th600622

    European Challenge Cup / European Rugby Challenge Cup

    2006–07 11st6501525
    Quarter-finalNewport Gwent Dragons 39 – 17 Brive
    Semi-final Clermont Auvergne 46 – 29 Newport Gwent Dragons
    2011–12 43rd6303315
    2012–13 33rd6204513
    2013–14 22nd6303214
    2014–15 31st6501525
    Quarter-finalNewport Gwent Dragons 25 – 21 Cardiff Blues
    Semi-finalEdinburgh 45–16 Newport Gwent Dragons
    2015–16 22nd6402420
    Quarter-final Gloucester 21 – 23 Newport Gwent Dragons
    Semi-final Montpellier 22 – 12 Newport Gwent Dragons
    2016–17 32nd6303214
    2017–18 12nd6303416
    2018–19 13rd6204210
    2019–20 12nd6402420
    Quarter-final Bristol Bears 56 – 17 Dragons

    Anglo-Welsh Cup

    2005–06 D3rd320108
    2006–07 D3rd310204
    2007–08 A4th301235
    2008–09 A3rd310215
    2009–10 42nd4301012
    2010–11 21st4301012
    Semi-final Gloucester 45–17 Newport Gwent Dragons
    2011–12 44th411217
    2012–13 13rd420208
    2013–14 14th410304
    2014–15 13rd4202311
    2016–17 13rd410315
    2017–18 14th420219


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