CARDIFF boss Dai Young believes the Dragons have kicked on this season and is braced for some cunning moves from counterpart Dean Ryan this weekend.

The rivals meet at the Arms Park in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm) and it promises to be a fierce encounter, even in the absence of 16 Wales internationals.

The Dragons have not beaten Cardiff since Boxing Day, 2014 but a miserable 11-game losing streak shouldn’t faze them after they ended their Irish hoodoo at Connacht a fortnight ago.

Ryan’s men make the short trip to the capital on the back of a 24-10 loss to the Stormers, a third loss from four games, but Young has been impressed by their performances.

Cardiff boss Dai Young

Cardiff boss Dai Young

“They’ve kicked on from where they were last season. I’ve spent a lot of time analysing results and they were the most improved team last year,” said the former Wales prop.

“Although they may not have picked up as many wins as they would’ve liked, there was a lot of one-score games that could’ve gone either way.

“They’ve kicked on again and they’re a force to be reckoned with, especially up front.

“They’re missing six of their real big ball carriers, who have played really well for them this season, but I’m sure Dean will have a few things up his sleeve.

“The boys coming in to fill those holes will not want the performances to go back. They’ll come in and kick on in order to put their hands up as well.”

The Dragons are without hooker Elliot Dee, locks Will Rowlands and Ben Carter and back row forwards Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright because of Wales duty.

Cardiff are hit even harder with 10 players with Wayne Pivac’s squad rather than preparing for what is normally the biggest game of the season.

“You certainly make sure that you’ve got a squad mentality leading into these games [over the international period],” said Young.

“You make sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them in each position and you’d like to think they can transfer that into the jersey.

“It’s not quite as easy as that, but we’d certainly like to think that the boys stepping up are looking forward to their opportunity and to put their hands up.

“When Cardiff go out there to play Dragons, it’s a big rivalry and everyone wants to get that result. Going into it, I believe we’re well prepared so there will be no excuses.

“We may have to narrow our game a little bit, to make sure that we do the basics well and we can build from there.”

Wales fly-half Jarrod Evans is back to boost Cardiff after being sidelined by a sternum injury suffered in the win against Connacht on opening weekend.

They are without Rhys Priestland because of international duty but Evans has recovered and is set to pull the strings with former Dragon Jason Tovey the other option.