JAMES Thomas hopes a fresh start under a new boss will lead to something that only happened twice last season – getting named in a in a Dragons XV for a Guinness PRO14 game.

The Rodney Parade side get their season under way with a home encounter against Irish big guns Leinster on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3.15pm).

Flanker/lock Thomas was a prominent figure in 2014/15 after earning a professional deal thanks to his performances with Bedwas in the Principality Premiership, making 28 appearances and impressing with his uncompromising approach.

But the following campaign was destroyed by injury and last season the 27-year-old played in just 12 games with the encounters at Treviso and Glasgow the only ones that he started in the then PRO12.

However, Bernard Jackman has taken over in the Rodney Parade hotseat and was swift to pledge that everybody started with a clean slate.

Thomas has made the most of that – and Lewis Evans' pre-season injury and Wales flanker Ollie Griffiths' extended break – to start at blindside flanker in the pre-season clashes with Montpellier, Exeter and Glasgow.

He captained the side against the Warriors at Eugene Cross Park and hopes to feature when the real stuff gets under way this weekend.

"Bernard came in and said that it was a fresh start for everyone and that he was not going to judge anyone on last year, which is good for me because I didn't have too many games," said Thomas.

"Everyone has got a chance, that's good and there are boys who have come into the side who perhaps didn't expect to be. We're all working hard and you know that if you don't then someone else will take your spot.

"Last year I just didn't get any games and it was hard. The boys in my position were playing well so I didn't get much of a chance.

"It's been good for me to have a fresh start and get a run of games in pre-season because when you haven't been playing and get a chance you feel that it's your only one.

"I've had a lot more opportunities in pre-season and you have to be on the field to have a chance of earning a start."

Thomas & Co will be put through their paces by defence coach Hendre Marnitz this week after a pre-season that saw them suffer heavy defeats to a quartet of Champions Cup teams in Montpellier, Northampton, Exeter and Glasgow.

The back row will be key to keeping a free-flowing Leinster side, who won 54-22 at Rodney Parade last season, quiet but numbers 6,7 and 8 also have a big role to play in Jackman's desired attacking plan.

"We are playing a more expansive game so in the back row our skills have got to be better to be able to play and interlink with the backs and get into the wide channels," said Thomas.

"Bernard is really keen on everyone working as hard as they can. There can be no walking on the field – if we keep running and keep working then the opportunities will come."