CARETAKER boss Ceri Jones knows that masterminding a stirring response to the Dragons' humiliation in Italy is vital to his hopes of landing the top job at Rodney Parade.

The region play their final Newport fixture of the season on Sunday when they entertain Ulster in the Guinness PRO14 (kick-off 3pm).

Jones and his team have been licking their wounds this week after a 57-7 hammering at Benetton when they shipped nine tries in an abject display in Treviso.

There had been an improvement in performances, if not a dramatic upsurge in results, since the former Wales prop took the reins after the sacking of Bernard Jackman.

Ending the four-year league derby drought against the Ospreys at the end of December was sandwiched by battling displays against Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets, leading to Jones getting the job until the end of the season.

The 41-year-old has put himself forward to be given the role permanently but needs a strong finish to the campaign to stand a chance, starting against Ulster.

"Do I still want the job? Yes, I do. Am I doing everything I can to get the best performance from the team? Yes, I am," he said.

"We didn't see that coming at Benetton. We had a really good week and a really positive performance in Edinburgh, even though we slipped in the last 20 minutes.

"I didn't see that performance coming and I don't think the squad did, so our job is to do everything that we can to put a really good performance in against Ulster."

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The Dragons held a lengthy video review on Tuesday and are likely to ring the changes in the backs after a passive display in Treviso when they missed a mammoth 41 tackles.

"We know that performance was not acceptable," said Jones. "The performances for the last two months have been at a certain level, apart from the Clermont game, which I have been pleased with.

"I was not particularly pleased with the Benetton performance and we have to address that and address it fast to be ready for Sunday.

"I don't suppose I am a rollocking man, more of a menacing stare man! But we looked at it as a group and raised conversation within the group.

"It's not just about people having their heads down and saying that is not good enough, it's about what you do to put it right."

Jones has been appointed until the end of the season and has had to contend with the continuing uncertainty caused by Project Reset saga.

Until the Welsh Rugby Union and four regionrubber-stampmp a new agreement, none of the professional clubs can sign off contracts with players who are approaching the end of their deals.

Jones has an inkling of his approach – "we know pretty much where we are at regards to a budget, so have a good idea in our mind how we want to move forward" – but is still waiting for the green light to put his plans in place.

"We have started talking to people. We are in negotiations and things are starting to loosen up," he said.

"You have got to speak to these boys, there are people who are out of contract, there are people that we will want to keep and there are those we will not want to keep.

"You have to start those conversations. Are we at a place where the contract situation has been finalised? No we are not at the moment, but I don't think it will be too far away.

"You cant just ignore the player, they are out of contract and it is their livelihood. You need to have conversations with these players."