THE Dragons are poised to rest a handful of key individuals in their European Challenge Cup opener at Newcastle after a heavy workload.

The Rodney Parade region get their campaign under way at Kingston Park on Saturday (kick-off 3pm), the second fixture of their October on the road.

The Dragons head into the game on the back of a 43-29 defeat at Cardiff Blues and face another derby date at the Ospreys at the end of the month after tackling the Falcons and then Enisei-STM in Moscow.

Head coach Bernard Jackman is limited by a lengthy injury list but is set to tinker with his XV to give a breather to the likes of captain Cory Hill, in-form hooker Elliot Dee, burgeoning tighthead Leon Brown and experienced fly-half Gavin Henson.

The changes won’t be as drastic as Ulster three weeks ago, when the first team were left in Wales to prepare for the Southern Kings, but the management will freshen things up.

“Tuesday was a conditioning day and we haven’t finalised our squad but it’s been a massive work load and we’ve got to keep people fresh,” said backs coach Shaun Connor.

“If we keep playing the same players week in, week out then there is going to be a drop-off somewhere and as a management group we can’t afford for that to happen.

“We’ve got a lot of quality players and whoever plays at the weekend needs to put their hand up if they want to play in league games and big important games.

“If they are lucky enough to get an opportunity then they need to take their chance.”

Eight players have started in five of six games this season – wing/full-back Hallam Amos, centre Tyler Morgan, Henson, prop Brok Harris, Dee, Brown, Hill and flanker James Benjamin.

Several will sit out the trip to the north east of England entirely but the Dragons, despite a number of long-term injuries, are not raising the white flag and will travel with a strong squad.

They have been boosted by the return to training of wings Ashton Hewitt (ankle) and Jared Rosser (hip), lock Rynard Landman (calf) and scrum-half Charlie Davies (concussion), although the latter is likely to play in the British & Irish Cup this weekend.

That campaign will see a handful of seniors among the academy prospects and Premiership talent at London Scottish on Saturday with the chance to give Jackman & Co a nudge.

“It’’s perfect for us as coaches, everyone gets to have a game this weekend and put their hand up for selection,” said Connor.

“Our injuries are well-documented and we are hoping to get some players back soon.

“It’s about trying to keep as many players fit as we can while getting others back so that we will have more strength in depth.”

The Dragons have not registered new signing James Sheekey for Europe yet with the back row forward, who has arrived from Cardiff on a one-year deal, set to play in the B&I Cup.