DEAN Ryan is ready to tinker with his squad for the start of the European Challenge Cup on Saturday afternoon.

The Rodney Parade region entertain Castres (kick-off 3pm) knowing that victory would set them up for a qualification tilt from a group also containing Worcester and Enisei-STM.

The Frenchmen currently sit 11th in the Top 14 so may opt to concentrate on avoiding the drop, but Ryan also has to make changes.

The director of rugby has kept a settled side for the first block of six fixtures in the Guinness PRO14 with nine players having started every game – full-back Jordan Williams, wing Owen Jenkins, fly-half Sam Davies, scrum-half Rhodri Williams, hooker Richard Hibbard, loosehead Brok Harris, tighthead Leon Brown and locks Joe Davies and Matthew Screech.

South Wales Argus:

The Dragons have a thin squad and Ryan, who will be without his Wales internationals until December, is keen to avoid stretching it further through injury.

“We’ve got a small available squad and the challenge is that some of our guys have played too much rugby at the moment,” he said.

“The other side of that challenge is that we have still got to respect Castres and we have got to respect the European Challenge Cup.

“We have got to get that balance right. We can’t think ‘let’s just keep playing until next week’ and keep people going until they break.

“We also can’t just make 15 changes and suddenly expect everything to go alright. We have to get that balance right on the weekend.”

The Dragons head into the game on the back of a 20-7 loss to Edinburgh but they left Murrayfield with their heads held high after standing up to the play-off hopefuls’ power game.

“It was frustrating not to get a losing bonus point. After the last game (against Leinster) we reviewed it and knew what big points we wanted to put into this game,” said centre Adam Warren, who scored the Dragons’ try on his 100th appearance.

South Wales Argus:

“We made a massive step forward, but it was disappointing because we felt we were in that game and just a few little moments, when they took their chances well, was the difference.

“We knew some of the errors at Leinster weren’t acceptable, we knew we had to tidy that up and get that side of the game right.

“Our defence is improving from week to week, we are getting stronger in that area and we showed that against a really good Edinburgh side full of internationals.

“We held our own and maybe if we tweaked a few things we could have scored a few more or stopped them.

“Dean has come in and has some good ideas about what he wants to do with the squad. He is still figuring it out and we are all working hard and towards the same goal.”

Warren was a member of the Dragons side that made it to the European Challenge Cup semi-finals in 2016, his first season at Rodney Parade.

“It’s always nice to have a little switch up with Europe competition,” he said. “Over the last few years we haven’t done too badly in Europe. It’s always a nice challenge when you play different teams from the PRO14.

“Hopefully we can get some good results to put ourselves in a good place when we play Zebre, so we can build a bit of confidence and kick on in the league.”

The Dragons kick off their European campaign against Castres while Worcester, who Ryan’s men face twice in December, travel to Enisei on Friday night.

The Warriors beat Harlequins on Saturday and are two from two in the Premiership, and aiming to avoid being overtaken by Saracens after their points deduction.

Castres edged out Brive last weekend for their fourth win from nine.