THE Dragons players have pulled together after Dean Ryan’s blunt assessment of their opening weekend effort in the United Rugby Championship, insists the boss’ right-hand man ahead of a daunting date with Munster.
The Rodney Parade club made a shocking start to the campaign when they shipped seven tries in a 44-6 hammering by Edinburgh.
It was a performance that led to Ryan, who guided the Dragons to just two wins in a nightmare 2021/22, giving his players both barrels.
“We've got supposed talent in that side, but I don't see it at the moment,” said the director of rugby, who is in his fourth season at the helm.
“I don't see the work rate that is needed. I don't see the desire to be in the right position.”
Eyebrows have been raised at Ryan’s comments – and they weren’t a one-off, the former Worcester, Gloucester and Bristol boss repeated them when carrying out his post-match duties in Edinburgh – but they have got a reaction.
Head coach Dai Flanagan has been impressed by what he has seen in Ystrad Mynach this week as the squad aim for a dramatically improved effort on home soil on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
“Post-match interviews are difficult, people are really emotional,” said Flanagan, who arrived this summer from the Scarlets.
“We all have our own feelings after games and unfortunately some of us have to stand in front of a camera at the wrong time. He was emotional and that was how he felt, whether right or wrong.
“We have to pull together as a squad and that is what has really made me proud this week, how tight the players have become.
“Not just the boys who have been through a lot here and had ups and downs, the new guys have managed to pick people up and say 'it's one game'.
“We have to be better, there is no hiding behind that – coaches, players, staff, region, club.
“We don't want to put on another show like that, we have to everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen.”
Flanagan was brought in by Ryan this summer and one nightmare 80 minutes in Edinburgh hasn’t made him regret swapping Parc y Scarlets for Rodney Parade.
“There is a hard-working group here and they have reacted really positively,” he said. “They know that they can be better and it's really important that we show that this weekend.
“It was one game. I am still super excited to see what we can achieve with this group.
“I haven't changed my feelings, I have really enjoyed working with the people here and we have to move forward, and move forward quickly.”
Munster have also been licking their wounds this week after a 20-13 loss to Cardiff at the Arms Park last Saturday.
The Dragons have lost their last eight meetings with the Irish province, who humiliated them 64-3 in Limerick last season.
“They don't lose two on the bounce often,” said Flanagan. “We have to respect that it's Munster coming but, for me, it doesn’t matter who is coming, we've got to look after ourselves.
“We've got to show improvement and fight for each other and the area we come from.”
The teams are named at midday.