Newport Gwent Dragons start sevens defence in Cardiff

Harrison Keddie
Harrison Keddie is included in the Dragons squad for their defence of the Singha 7s title

Newport Gwent Dragons will start their defence of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s in Cardiff on Friday.

They face Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Scarlets in a round-robin event with the top two teams going forward to the finals in Coventry on Sunday, 7 August.

The other finalists will come from three groups involving the 12 English Premiership clubs.

"The Singha 7s has been an incredible success for the Dragons," said coach Nick Wakely.

Welsh regions have been included in the tournament since 2014, with the Dragons losing finalists in 2014 before beating Wasps to clinch the title in 2015.

Wakely, who coached the winners last season, says the event has been a valuable stepping stone for developing players.

"Angus O'Brien and Ashton Hewitt, Harrison Keddie have kicked on and hopefully will get more exposure this year," he added.

Keddie - who scored the winning try against Wasps in the 2015 final - is again included in a youthful Dragons squad.

Harrison Keddie scores Dragons' decisive try in the 2015 Singha 7s final
Harrison Keddie's try clinched Dragons' 17-14 win over Wasps in the 2016 Singha 7s final

Ospreys include Wales sevens specialist Morgan Williams and 15-a-side internationals Dafydd Howells and Jonathan Spratt in a squad which is coached by Tom Smith and Richard Fussell.

Scarlets include a number of Welsh Premiership club players and will be led by Carmarthen Quins' Iolo Evans and coached by Dai Flanagan.

Sevens specialists Evans, Jake Conway, Matthew Owen, Aron Evans, Shaun Pearce, Aaron Warren and Rhodri Jones all featured in last year's finals day at Twickenham.

Hosts Cardiff Blues include Wales seven internationals Adam Thomas, Ben Roach and Owen Jenkins in their squad.

They have also selected Wales Under-18 international James Botham - the grandson of England cricket legend Sir Ian Botham.

"We are lucky to have Adam Thomas, Owen Jenkins and Ben Roach, who are Cardiff Blues boys and have experience on the sevens stage," said elite performance pathway manager Richard Hodges.

"We've recruited them to be the real leaders in the group.

"Then we can expose our tier two academy, guys just out of the under-18s like Dane Blacker, Ben Jones, Callum Bradbury and Jimmy Botham."

Squads

Newport Gwent Dragons: Ross Wardle, Darran Harris, Harrison Keddie, Aled Brew, Ethan Davies, James Benjamin, Geraint Rhys Jones (capt), Elliot Frewen, Jonny Lewis, Arwel Robson, Chris Levesley, Luc Jones.

Ospreys: Joseph Scrivens, Steff Andrews, Will Jones, Dafydd Howells, James Ratti, Tom O'Flaherty, Morgan Williams, David Evans, Joe Gage, Phil Jones, Jay Baker, Jonathan Spratt (Capt).

Scarlets: Iolo Evans, Matthew Owen, Jake Conway, Shaun Pearce, Rhodri Davies, Ashley Evans, Aron Evans, Dion Jones, Rhodri Jones, Nathan Edwards, Scott Gibson, Aaron Warren.

Cardiff Blues: Adam Thomas, Ben Roach, James Botham, Luke Crocker, Joe Tomlinson, Ben Jones, Owen Jenkins, James Beale, Dane Blacker, Geraint Walsh, Ben Thomas, Declan Williams.

Fixtures (Friday, 22 July; all times BST): 19:00: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets. 19:25: Ospreys v Newport Gwent Dragons. 19:55: Ospreys v Scarlets. 20:20: Cardiff Blues v Newport Gwent Dragons. 20:50: Scarlets v Newport Gwent Dragons. 21:15: Cardiff Blues v Ospreys.