WE have got to turn Rodney Parade back into a fortress insists Ashley Smith as the Dragons start their planning for next season
ROBIN DAVEY is a regular at Rodney Parade, acting as chief rugby writer for the South Wales Argus over the last 42 years before retiring in December. The Argus praised his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game saying he was irreplaceable and that they were ‘pretty sure we won’t see his like again’ but ... he’s back!
His retirement has allowed him to break free of the journalistic shackles and devote more time to his love for the Dragons!
WE have got to turn Rodney Parade back into a fortress insists Ashley Smith as the Dragons start their planning for next season.
The team have disappointed in some of their home matches this campaign and Smith, who has captained the Dragons eight times this season in the enforced absence of Luke Charteris, says they have got to put that record straight as a reward for their loyal fans as much as anything else.
"The crowds are always great here and the atmosphere is as well, but hopefully we can build on our rising attitude and make the ground into a fortress for the coming seasons," he said.
"The coaches are looking to replace players who are leaving. They are good players who have played well but I'm sure some decent replacements will come in and I know the staff are looking into it."
The loss of skipper Luke Charteris and Aled Brew will hit the Dragons, but Smith understands why so many players are leaving these shores and is still optimistic for the future.
"The boys who are leaving are close friends and though going abroad is a difficult decision for them it's a lifestyle and cultural change so you can't blame them and you can't turn that down," he said.
"It's sad to see them go, but that's the business we're in. The Dragons have got to move on and hopefully we can build as a region."
Though the Dragons trail rivals Cardiff Blues by 12 points in the RaboDirect PRO12 League with just three matches left Ashley says they still haven't given up hope of overhauling them in the table to avoid finishing fourth placed Welsh region again.
Treviso, just one place below them, are the first of that trio at Rodney Parade on Friday and Smith says it offers them a real chance. "It's an opportunity to put pressure on the Blues and finish the season in a positive fashion then look forward to next season," he said.
"Treviso are a good team (coached by former Newport fly half Franco Smith), we had an opportunity to beat them over there and we scored an excellent try but then we stopped our offloading game.
"It's going to be tough, they've got a big pack with lots of internationals and some good non-internationals as well. They've got some big guys who chuck their weight around, but they've also got some attacking pace behind.
"We've had a week off which makes us a bit fresher and a bit rested, but so have Treviso. There’s still a chance for us to get that third place among Welsh teams and a Heineken Cup place. We've got to win our last three games and then see what happens."
Smith admits it's been an up-and-down season for him and the team. "It's been a funny season with our internationals away for the first two months, then back, then away again so it's been very much stop-start, and with injuries too with me having five weeks off," he said.
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