JAMES Benjamin is happy to put the dream of representing his country at the Commonwealth Games on the back burner if it means being back in the thick of it for the Dragons in “Test week”.

The 23-year-old from Rogerstone is poised to feature in the Guinness PRO14 opener against Leinster at Rodney Parade on Saturday (kick-off 3.15pm).

After a 2016/17 in which he played just one game – and that only came as a replacement against Worcester in the European Challenge Cup because of late injury withdrawals – it is a welcome return to the fray for the mobile back row forward.

Benjamin, primarily an openside, has profited from the arrival of Bernard Jackman as head coach and started against Montpellier and Glasgow in pre-season and came off the bench against Exeter.

The back rower is relishing the prospect of getting in the action when the real stuff kicks off this weekend.

“It’s going to be up a whole new level and Leinster are top quality opposition,” said Benjamin. “We are calling it Test week and we have come in with that mentality.

“Monday was probably the best session we have had in years with the intensity, tempo and the way that it was run. We are just building and building for the weekend now.”

Benjamin has prospered from Jackman’s desire to play a more expansive game with the skills that saw him playing his rugby on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit to the fore.

When his route to the Dragons side was blocked by Ollie Griffiths and Nic Cudd last year he represented Wales, taking his tally of international sevens matched to 47, and it appeared that this season would be building towards the Gold Coast in April.

“I was thinking about it [the Commonwealth Games] in pre-season but I will take everything as it comes,” he said.

“If that opportunity arises in the future then it would be an honour to be involved with Wales sevens because last year was brilliant.

“From a young age I have always enjoyed the ball-handling and decision-making parts of the game so it does lend itself to my game.

“In sevens you have more time and space in attack but in defence there is more space and less time, so it’s a lot harder.”

The Dragons need to improve without the ball after a pre-season in which they shipped 201 points in four games.

Benjamin is confident that will happen as they get accustomed to the structures of defence coach Hendre Marnitz, who only arrived a month ago, while he also believes they will pose plenty of questions when they are in possession.

“Bernard is putting a lot more structure across the board, so we are a little bit more accountable of our roles whether in attack or defence,” said the flanker, who was a member of the 2013 Wales Under-20s side that finished second at the Junior World Championship.

“That’s something we’ve been crying out for in the past few seasons and we are much happier that we’ve got set plans, but then he also doesn’t want to take away your individual ability to play, read things, call things and see how it goes on the pitch.

“We are trying to create our own brand of rugby, a Dragons way of playing, which is expansive but also playing to the conditions and opposition with the ability to change and alter each week.”