FORWARDS coach Ceri Jones is excited by the "acid test" of the Dragons' summer toil when they kick-off the Guinness PRO14 against Munster in Limerick.

The Rodney Parade region start their season at Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) against last year's semi-finalists, who have not lost on home soil in any tournament since a festive derby against Leinster in 2017.

The Dragons, meanwhile, travel with the well-documented PRO14 losing streak on the road that stretches back to March, 2015.

After being in pre-season training since June 10, match action is finally here for the squad after the hard work under new boss Dean Ryan.

South Wales Argus:

"You can definitely feel it within the camp. The boys are excited, it has been one of the longest pre-seasons I can remember and we have made some good strides over the summer," said Jones, who has returned to his role as forwards coach after being caretaker boss for the second half of last season.

"The boys are confident and looking forward to the start of the season. Munster is a great challenge, they don't get much bigger.

"We are going over there after putting some systems in place over the summer and we want to test them out.

"We know that we are growing as a region and feel we are making strides, but you don't know until the acid test of the PRO14.

"It will be really interesting for us as coaches and for the players to see what we've worked on over the summer in a proper match. It's going to be a long season and we want to develop."

South Wales Argus:

The Irish province may be without Ireland forwards Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn, Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander but Jones knows his players will still face a stern examination up front.

"They have a South African coach and that tells you two things – they are going to be set-piece orientated and they will be direct," he said.

"I think that we are in a decent enough place. It's a big challenge on the weekend but we are pretty fortunate in the front row with only Elliot Dee missing.

"It's nice to have Leon Brown back and getting him back into the frame of things, it's important that he plays while Lloyd Fairbrother has made massive strides over the last few years.

"Richard Hibbard is vastly experienced and then there is Ryan Bevington and Brok Harris, so we are fortunate in our front six that there is experience.

"It's down to us to put it all on the field – it can all look pretty in pre-season and when you are running against each other in Ystrad Mynach but the real test is how we look against a very strong Munster team."

The Dragons front rowers have had the chance to pick the brains of a French international in recent weeks.

Olivier Azam, the ex-hooker/prop who played under director of rugby Dean Ryan at Gloucester and has coached Toulon, Lyon, Oyonnax and Stade Francais, has been watching on at Ystrad Mynach.

"He has just come in to observe like a few others – (Newport head coach) Ty Morris was in earlier in the week," said Jones.

"All coaches have continual development, we go into diff environments and people come into ours. I've been to Harlequins and across to Natal Sharks; you go around to try and pick up new ideas.

"You look at what other people are doing and then assess what you are doing to try and improve, perhaps bringing things back that might work.

"The Welsh coaches have been with us – Stephen Jones before he went to Japan and Jonathan Humphreys – because sharing ideas is a big thing and having conversations with different people is always helpful."

The Dragons name their team at midday (FRI) with the locks certain to be Joe Davies and Matthew Screech because of Samoa international Brandon Nansen's arm injury and the unavailability of Cory Hill, who is on the comeback trail from the leg injury that ended his World Cup.

The management are mulling over who will be in the bench with Max Williams potentially heading to face Munster in Limerick rather than Leinster A in Dublin.

"Max has done really well in the Celtic Cup games. He has called the lineout incredibly well and showed great maturity," said Jones.

"Injuries opens up opportunities for other players and we have lots of good players who can come in – Huw Taylor and Lewis Evans have shown they can cover lock and there are youngsters coming through the under-23s. Somebody's mishap is another's opportunity."