DEAN Ryan has challenged his Dragons team to engage with the physical fight this season rather than run away from it after naming a pack stacked with internationals for their United Rugby Championship opener against the Ospreys.

The Rodney Parade side get their campaign under way with a full-blooded home derby against the west Walians, who are tipped by many to be the region that challenges in the URC play-offs.

The Dragons finished the PRO14 strongly in 2020/21 after a sluggish start and will need to pick up where they left off.

The charge will be led by a confrontational all-international back row of Ross Moriarty, Ollie Griffiths and Aaron Wainwright with new cap Taine Basham on the bench.

New signings Will Rowlands, Aki Seiuli and Mesake Doge bolster a tight five that features talented lock Ben Carter, fresh from summer Test duty, and up-and-coming hooker Ellis Shipp.

Six of the Dragons’ starting pack are internationals while uncapped Seiuli spent the summer with Samoa.

Ryan has big hitters Richard Hibbard, Jamie Roberts and Greg Bateman alongside Basham on the bench and has demanded his charges fly into the Ospreys.

South Wales Argus: OPTIMISTIC: Dragons boss Dean RyanOPTIMISTIC: Dragons boss Dean Ryan

“We need to increase our physicality. Our game understanding of what we are trying to do is roughly there,” said director of rugby Ryan.

“We saw Glasgow, in the Rainbow Cup, and Ulster physically impose themselves on us and there was very little we could do about it. We played pretty well but couldn’t turn the tide of the game.

“That’s been a priority for us and I want to see some progress. We can’t just try to play around something physical and avoid something physical, we have to engage with it and win that battle.”

The Dragons are without injured Wales front rowers Elliot Dee and Leon Brown for what Ryan predicts will be a stern examination in the tight.

“The Ospreys are based around set piece and field position,” he said. “They have some dangerous runners but they grow into games off the back of the power at their set piece.

“We expect scrums and lineout drives, and if we can't handle that then it will manage field position.

“But it would be underestimating Toby and the Ospreys to say they haven't got other things – they have some really dangerous runners and he has created an environment where they feel they can express themselves.”