COACH Ryan Harris is determined to take the Dragons players out of their comfort zone this pre-season, but not through flogging them in the gym and on the training pitch.

The Rodney Parade region returned to their Ystrad Mynach base on June 10, six weeks after they finished the season with a stunning victory against the Scarlets at Judgement Day.

The Dragons face a long summer because the Guinness PRO14 doesn't start up again until late September, a situation that has its challenges for head of strength and conditioning Harris.

The 38-year-old, who was named as clubman of the year at May's end of season awards, is prepared to have a novel approach to stop his charges getting into a rut.

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Harris has already put the Dragons squad through outdoor challenges at Cwmcarn Forest and got them grappling at Newport MMA with Tim 'Super Human' Newman.

"We've done a few things to make sure we avoid anything getting stale," said the coach, who has more alternative activities in the pipeline.

"(Director of rugby) Dean Ryan has come in and told us to align our week and make it different, so we now have Mondays and Tuesdays here in Ystrad Mynach before we go off-site on Wednesdays.

"It's about taking the players to a different environment, hearing a different voice maybe, and giving them certain challenges and experiences together.

"We have to make sure we break-up any monotony of being in the same place at the same time every week.

"Thursdays and Fridays are back at Ystrad Mynach so we're doing five consecutive days, as opposed to a two days on and one day off routine.

"With new guys coming into the group these challenges off-site make sure that everyone knows each other, gets chatting, is vocal and, most of all, enjoys their training."

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The wait until PRO14 action makes it all the more important to mix up preparations without a ball.

"All the off-site work has an underlying physical element to it, but it is also about getting them working together in different scenarios they may not have experienced before," said Harris.

"We've been to Cwmcarn Forest where we've done some orienteering, paddle boarding and mountain biking.

"We've also been to Newport MMA to work with Tim Newman and we have a few more surprises up our sleeves.

"It will all be physical, but there might be some more team building challenges, working things out together because ultimately that is what they have to do on the field.

"The modern rugby player has so many facets with physical components and mental components – it is about working all of them.

"We want to give them experiences that tests that, it doesn't have to be on the pitch or inside a gym.

"We have to think outside the box to give them mental and physical challenges that will push them, but that also give them memories they enjoy and ensure they are close as a group as the season goes on."

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The late start and finish to the domestic season because of Japan 2019 does, however, have its advantages.

The group of players that were injured at the end of the last campaign are working hard to be in tip-top shape for when the hard graft starts in earnest under new boss Ryan while others are prospering from tailored regimes.

"It's certainly elongated because of the Rugby World Cup and the league starting later, but while it brings challenges there are also some luxuries," said Harris.

"Normally time is an issue, trying to fit everything in, so what we can work on is player's weaknesses and focus on that.

"If a player needs to put some mass on we can spend a good four weeks working on that programme before they move onto a strength or power programme.

"Normally we have to train concurrently with their running load or speed work, depending on where that sits within our plans.

"For example, we could do eight gym sessions a week with some players and a lower running load to serve that purpose.

"You have to look at this long pre-season as a positive and use it to our benefit."