DRAGONS boss Bernard Jackman is prepared to give youth a chance at Rodney Parade this season before delving into the transfer market next summer, writes Chris Kirwan.

The Irishman took over in the Rodney Parade hotseat in June and promptly pledged to give the squad a chance to prove themselves.

But Jackman has already shown in the first two games of the campaign that he is also happy to give youngsters an opportunity.

He gave flanker/lock Max Williams and wing Jared Rosser regional debuts off the bench in the Guinness PRO14 opener against Leinster and scrum-half Owain Leonard, a third 19-year-old, made his bow when he played 70 minutes as a replacement in Edinburgh.

Two players from Wales Under-18s’ successful summer tour to South Africa have also caught Jackman’s eye – openside Lennon Greggains got a chance in pre-season against Glasgow while scrum-half Dan Babos has been in contention for a place in the matchday squad because of injuries to Sarel Pretorius and Tavis Knoyle.

The head coach has already warned his senior fringe players that they need to start impressing if they are to be part of his rebuilding job at the Dragons and they also face competition for places from the academy.

“It was a good learning curve for Owain Leonard in Edinburgh and he had some good moments,” said Jackman. “Like Max Williams, it’s another local kid getting some PRO14 game time and experience.

“Now it’s a case of me and [academy manager] James Chapron making sure these boys are ready and we need to fast track the good youngsters.

“While we want to get as many wins as we can this year, it’s a chance to build a nucleus of home-grown players and then when we go to recruit we will look to bring in players in places where we don’t have somebody who is already on the right track.”

The Dragons’ 23-man squad in Edinburgh featured 13 players who have come through the ranks at Rodney Parade – hooker Elliot Dee, prop Leon Brown, the back row of James Thomas, James Benjamin and Harri Keddie, centre Tyler Morgan and wings Hallam Amos and Ashton Hewitt in the XV plus hooker Rhys Buckley, Williams, Leonard, fly-half Angus O’Brien and wing/centre Adam Hughes off the bench.

The Newbridge pair of Ollie Griffiths (hip) and Jack Dixon (groin) could return to the back row and midfield respectively against Connacht on Friday (kick-off 7.30pm) along with South Africa scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.