LEE Byrne could have been starting another Top 14 campaign this weekend but instead the former Wales full-back is relishing the chance to lead Newport Gwent Dragons into action against Bristol.
The Rodney Parade region will enjoy their first hit-out when they take on the big-spending Championship side at Clifton RFC on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
After a long summer of graft on the training paddock, Byrne is delighted that he will finally get the chance to pull on a Dragons jersey.
The 34-year-old turned down the advances of another French club to head home from Clermont Auvergne on a two-year deal and can't wait to get started.
"It's been nine weeks of pre-season whereas in France we'd have three and they're back into the Top14 this weekend," said the full-back, who old team host Grenoble at the Stade Marcel Michelin tomorrow afternoon.
"It's been the longest pre-season I've had in three years – now I want to just get the ball in my hands.
"There's only so much fitness you can do and we are all looking forward to getting out there against Bristol."
Not only will Byrne don the number 15 jersey against Bristol but he will lead out the side after being named as captain by director of rugby Lyn Jones.
"It came as a complete shock and I thought it was one of Lyn's jokes," said Byrne, who won 46 Wales caps and another for the Lions against South Africa. "It's a lot of responsibility and Andrew Coombs did a great job last year.
"It's a lot of pressure but something I am looking forward to; it's one of the biggest honours I've had along with playing for Wales and the Lions."
The Dragons will give all of the travelling squad game time against Bristol, meaning action for new recruits Byrne, Aled Brew, Boris Stankovich, Lloyd Fairbrother, Ian Gough, Rynard Landman, James Thomas and Andy Powell.
Taulupe Faletau sits out the game after joining up with the squad late following his summer Test exertions with Wales in South Africa.
Dragons squad: L Byrne, R Jones, A Hewitt, T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, A Brew, M Pewtner, J Tovey, A O'Brien, J Evans, R Rees; B Stankovich, O Evans, R Thomas, E Dee, L Fairbrother, D Way, M Screech, I Gough, R Landman, C Hill, A Coombs, J Thomas, N Cudd, L Evans, A Powell.