THE Dragons are set to return to action at Benetton in the Challenge Cup next Saturday after European bosses declared the pool stages will continue as planned.

The Champions Cup and second tier Challenge Cup will go ahead after clubs and match officials were granted exemptions from French travel restrictions.

The rules imposed on travellers from the UK, which include the requirement to self-isolate for at least 48 hours after entering France, threatened to scupper the final two rounds of the pool phase.

But tournament organiser EPCR has been told that exemptions for what is termed the "pursuit of an economic activity" applies to players, coaching staff and officials taking part in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Six games between French and British rivals from the Champions Cup and two from the Challenge Cup are scheduled to take place next weekend, starting with Newcastle's trip to Biarritz on January 14.

The announcement saves the group stage from becoming untenable due to a host of postponed fixtures.

The Dragons huddle before facing Perpignan in the Challenge Cup

The Dragons huddle before facing Perpignan in the Challenge Cup

EPCR still face the challenging task of finding a window in the packed rugby calendar to re-stage those matches from round two that were called off on account of the French travel restrictions.

Rather than issue a 28-0 defeat to one team, as happens in the event of an outbreak of Covid, it was decided to find a new date for games that fell victim to the safety measures brought in at short notice.

Bristol have yet to play after their opener against the Scarlets fell to coronavirus before their trip to Stade Francais was aborted.

"While recognising that these are particularly challenging times for all its stakeholders, EPCR will continue to work with the leagues and unions so that this month's matches can be played safely," a statement read.

"EPCR is optimistic that this season's tournaments will be played to a successful conclusion.

"In addition, discussions are ongoing regarding the five Champions Cup and two Challenge Cup round two fixtures which were postponed due to unforeseen circumstances arising from changes to border controls between France and the UK."

The Rodney Parade region lost to Perpignan in France last month before being beaten by Lyon at Rodney Parade.

They head to Treviso next weekend, have a bye week and then finish the group stages with a home encounter against Gloucester in April, a lucrative fixture that the Dragons will not want to lose.

Dean Ryan's men need to beat Benetton to keep their hopes of the knockout stages alive but will be rusty after suffering a trio of derby postponements due to coronavirus.

Their trip to the Ospreys was called off due to problems in the hosts' camp and then the Dragons suffered an outbreak to prompt the Cardiff and Scarlets games to be pushed back to later in the campaign.