TAVIS Knoyle will make his first start since January in the Dragons’ European Challenge Cup opener at Perpignan tomorrow evening (kick-off 5.30pm) with boss Dean Ryan backing him to take the fight to the French side.

The scrum-half made an earlier return than planned as a second-half replacement in the United Rugby Championship defeat to Glasgow last weekend.

Knoyle, who ruptured knee ligaments against the Ospreys at the start of the year, added energy and spikiness in the poor performance at Scotstoun Stadium so is rewarded with the 9 jersey at the Stade Aime Giral. He will go up against Argentina scrum-half Martin Landajo.

South Wales Argus: STARTER: Tavis Knoyle gets the nod for the DragonsSTARTER: Tavis Knoyle gets the nod for the Dragons

“An ACL is a significant injury and he had only just had his first week back in full training,” said director of rugby Ryan.

“We probably wouldn’t want such a quick return but Tavis, as always, just engages and gets on with it. If he hadn’t been available then we really would have been struggling.”

The Dragons are without frontline pair Gonzalo Bertranou and Rhodri Williams, who have battled for the start at scrum-half, plus on-loan Lewis Jones through injury.

“Both Rhodri and Gonzalo have got our game moving very fast,” said Ryan. “Tavis is more physical around the fringes and a bit more capable of taking the ball on himself.

“We have to adapt our game to try and get the best out of him while at the same time trying to hang on to some of the things that we want to still achieve.”

South Wales Argus: BACK: Elliot Dee starts for the Dragons in PerpignanBACK: Elliot Dee starts for the Dragons in Perpignan

The Dragons make six other changes with Wales hooker Elliot Dee and flanker Taine Basham, star of the autumn series, boosting the pack.

Fiji tighthead Mesake Doge starts along with lock Joe Davies while centre Adam Warren and wing Jordan Olowofela come into the three-quarters.

Jonah Holmes shifts from the right flank to full-back after Jordan Williams broke his right hand in Glasgow.

Wales lock Ben Carter returns as a replacement after being rested last weekend while the management have gone for the heftier option of number eight Dan Baker on the bench against the expected bruising approach from Perpignan.

Dynamic back rower Ollie Griffiths is not injured but is given a breather ahead of next week’s clash with Lyon and the festive derbies.

Perpignan are battling relegation in the Top 14 and leave out influential France international full-back Melvyn Jaminet and veteran Les Blues back rower Damien Chouly.

Perpignan: L Dubois; J Pujol, E Vaitulukina, E Sawaileau, N Seguela; P Fernandez, M Landajo; C Berguet, S Lam, A Fakatika, T Labouteley (captain), T Cavubati, N Ma'afu, E Bertheau, M Ugena.

Replacements: V Montgaillard, S Mavinga, V Jincharadze, A Mahu, G Montagne, T Ecochard, M Rodor, B Plana.

Dragons: J Holmes; R Dyer, A Warren, A Owen, J Olowofela; S Davies, T Knoyle; A Seiuli, E Dee, M Doge, J Davies, W Rowlands, H Keddie (captain), T Basham, A Wainwright.

Replacements: J Benjamin, J Reynolds, L Brown, B Carter, D Baker, D Babos, J Lewis, J Roberts.

Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)