SAM Davies is confident that the Dragons can get a four-year Irish ‘monkey off their back’ to avoid playing catch-up in the United Rugby Championship.

Dean Ryan’s men provided some reason for optimism despite going down to a 27-23 defeat to the Ospreys at Rodney Parade on opening weekend.

It was a missed opportunity to make a statement in the URC and also created a situation where the pressure can build.

The Dragons face the biggest challenge of the competition on Sunday when they host Leinster, who are overwhelming favourites to pick up in the URC where they left off in the PRO14.

That fixture is followed by a trip to Galway to face Connacht, a home meeting with the Stormers and then the short trip to Cardiff before the autumn break.

The Dragons have Irish opponents in the next two rounds and are on a 21-match winless streak against the provinces.

They have lost 20 of those games with a solitary draw against Ulster in December 2017, which came three months after they had beaten Connacht 21-8 in Newport.

The Dragons have been beaten 11 times on the spin by Leinster but gave the men from Dublin a scare at Rodney Parade in February when edged out 35-29.

Davies has never beaten an Irish side since heading east from the Ospreys in 2019 but is confident that he will soon break that duck.

South Wales Argus: CHALLENGE: Sam Davies has never beaten Leinster with the DragonsCHALLENGE: Sam Davies has never beaten Leinster with the Dragons

“It’s an exciting prospect to play against Leinster and we have to put things right,” said the Wales fly-half.

“It’s nice to have them at home and hopefully a crowd like we had last weekend can be our 16th man and we can put in a big showing.

“These two Irish tests are going to be tough but if we can get the continuity that we had in the first half against the Ospreys then we can win both of them.

“The additions that we have made to the squad are only going to help us against the likes of Leinster and Connacht. It’s an exciting prospect and we are looking to get the monkey off our back.”

The Dragons led 16-10 against the Ospreys at half-time but were hit by 17 unanswered points in the second half before Rhodri Williams’ late score set up a tense finale.

They had to settle for a consolation bonus and Davies admits they have plenty to work on if they are to cause an upset against a Leinster side that beat the Bulls 31-3.

South Wales Argus: INFLUENTIAL: Sam Davies pulled the strings against the OspreysINFLUENTIAL: Sam Davies pulled the strings against the Ospreys

“We struggled to get a foothold in the game in the second half and we missed a couple of opportunities with moments of imprecision,” he said.

“We are proud of the first half but have to be better than the second half and have gone back to the drawing board to see how we can do that.

“We were a bit off it, we missed a couple of opportunities at the set piece, our attacking breakdown was a bit off and keeping the ball in hand a bit more would potentially have helped us.

“We are looking to get better every week and have five debutants in the XV against the Ospreys and they will only get better with games.”