THE Dragons will be without defensive kingpin Nic Cudd for most of the season after the tenacious flanker suffered a summer knee injury.

The 28-year-old has been a firm fixture in the Rodney Parade side’s line-up since heading east from Llanelli in 2012, racking up 119 appearances and impressing with his dogged defence and breakdown prowess.

However, Cudd suffered damaged knee ligaments in the pre-season loss to Glasgow in Ebbw Vale and needs to go under the knife.

“Nic Cudd is out for pretty much the whole season and needs an operation,” said head coach Bernard Jackman.

“We will miss him a lot because he is a quiet leader and defensively he is outstanding, but it’s an opportunity for someone else.”

That leaves the Dragons with 2016/17 player of the year Ollie Griffiths, who is set to return from a minor hip problem at Edinburgh on Friday, and James Benjamin as their senior options at 7.

Their back-up will be teenage academy prospect Lennon Greggains, who made his senior bow against Glasgow after a successful tour of South Africa with Wales Under-18s.

Benjamin made his first Dragons start since March, 2016 in the Guinness PRO14 loss to Leinster at Rodney Parade and is set to feature prominently in the coming campaign.

“I thought that James Benjamin had a big game and I am sure his tackle stats and breakdown work will be outstanding,” said Jackman. “We like him a lot and he is a different type of player to Cuddy.

“And it’s an opportunity for Lennon Greggains at 18 to potentially play for his region and we’ve got to fast track him as coaches. It’s a big ask but it’s exciting to see these rough diamonds and try and polish them quickly.”

The Dragons are hopeful of scrum-half Sarel Pretorius returning from a tight calf in Scotland this weekend, that would be a welcome boost after Tavis Knoyle suffered a leg injury on his return from a wrist problem.

Jackman’s side will be attempting to down an Edinburgh side buoyed by an opening weekend win at Cardiff Blues.

“We need to tighten up our kicking game and we were a little bit passive in the wider channels, we didn’t really go for it and attack the line with enough speed,” said Jackman.

“Eight turnovers was too many so our breakdown work at times wasn’t good enough, our clean was good but our ball carrying wasn’t as active on the ground as Leinster.

“We probably need to get more change out of our maul because I felt it was dominant.”