AFTER spending two seasons with Brive, prop Mesake Doge knows the Dragons will have to embrace the pain in the south of France this evening.

The Rodney Parade side head to Perpignan to kick off their European Challenge Cup campaign (kick-off 5.30pm), the first fixture in a tough group that also contains Lyon, Benetton and Gloucester.

Getting off to a strong start would do the Dragons' hopes of knockout rugby the power of good and, as ever in France, it all starts up front.

Perpignan may be struggling in the Top 14 – a plight that will influence their approach to the tournament – but they will present the usual formidable set-piece contest and hard-carrying around the corner.

South Wales Argus:

"The boys have played Top 14 teams before. You know going into it that it is going to be a more direct game, they will have more focus on the set pieces," said tighthead Doge.

"There are going to be a lot of big men running towards you, not so much into spaces but more looking to match the forwards.

"There are going be some sore bodies, but it will be a challenge the boys are ready for."

Doge lives a rolling maul away from Rodney Parade and has quickly made himself at home at the Dragons.

The Fijian has made six appearances and scored three close-range tries to go along with his solid work in the tight.

"I was coming to the end of my contract with Brive at the start of this year when we started talks about coming over to the Dragons.

"I was pretty excited and then Dean contacted me and we had a Zoom call. They made it happen and I am here now.

"I am settling in well and I am liking it in Newport. It has its times when it comes alive, but I also like the chilled vibe and it is really quiet.

"I love it here at the Dragons, the boys are good and the coaching staff are really pushing us. Eventually we are going to rise up and get into that top level again."

South Wales Argus: Dragons prop Mesake DogeDragons prop Mesake Doge

The 28-year-old's impressive start is emphasised by the fact he has got the start this evening with Wales prop Leon Brown, recently back from injury, backing him up.

The aim is to ensure the Dragons maintain high standards at tighthead for the full 80 minutes.

"Everywhere I go I love a challenge, so we are pushing each other," said Doge, who won caps against Wales and Georgia in the autumn after starting twice against New Zealand last summer.

"We are both international tightheads and playing at the same club so pushing each other is the main goal, so we can get the best out of each other rather than trying to just compete with each other

"I am trying to help because he is younger than me and I am trying to show everything that I could for him to learn also. He is doing certain things that I can learn off him, so it is a pretty exciting challenge."

Both Doge and Brown know they will be to the fore at the Stade Aime Giral with the bruises to show for it.