DRAGONS boss Dean Ryan has demanded more from his players in the European Challenge Cup opener at Perpignan after criticising them for lacking energy in their disappointing Scottish double-header.

The Rodney Parade side head to the south of France to kick off a tough group that also contains Top 14 heavyweights Lyon, Gloucester and Benetton.

The top three automatically qualify for the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup, meaning the Dragons can ill afford a slow start against a Perpignan side who will be more concerned with avoiding relegation.

"It's an intriguing group. Lyon look a huge threat for everybody and it will be interesting, as it always is, how people approach the Challenge Cup," said director of rugby Ryan.

"Wouldn't it be great to stay competitive and Gloucester at Rodney Parade would be fantastic if there is a lot riding on it. Let's hope we can play well enough in the next two weeks to keep those things alive."

The Dragons need to up their game after both Edinburgh and Glasgow beat them with bonus points in the United Rugby Championship.

Last weekend they were thrashed 33-14 at Scotstoun Stadium with the display even more alarming than the result for Ryan.

South Wales Argus: POOR: The Dragons after their defeat in GlasgowPOOR: The Dragons after their defeat in Glasgow

"We haven't been pleased with our performances in the last two weeks. We have been second best quite clearly," he said.

"This gives us a chance to move some combinations around and reinvigorate our game. The Edinburgh game caught us out a bit [after the break for the autumn internationals] but Glasgow was just about us coming second in everything.

"We need to get a bit of energy back into the squad. We are well aware that some of our resources are thin with some our frontline team out.

"But that's the time for opportunities and I would expect higher energy. To not have that from people who were looking for opportunities was disappointing."

Perpignan are back in the Top 14 but are struggling with four wins from 12 games.

Their priority is the battle against the drop but Ryan still expects a formidable challenge at a "daunting place".

"They are big and come around the corner. They have players stacked in the back field to try and counter attack, all the things you expect from a French side," he said.

"At times they don't look as organised as some of the other French teams, which is reflected in the position they face (in the league).

"But at home they don't disappoint, being big and looking to counter-attack."

Lyon and Gloucester meet in France in the first Pool B fixture this evening.