BALL-PLAYING back rower James Benjamin intends to show he is a man for all games when slugging it out for the Dragons against Castres' heavy-hitters on Saturday.

The 25-year-old from Rogerstone was denied the chance to stake a claim for a spot in the XV when he suffered a freak injury in pre-season training.

After damaging a tendon when getting his finger caught in a jersey, Benjamin is set to get his hands on a starting shirt in the European Challenge Cup opener against Castres at Rodney Parade (kick-off 3pm).

Director of rugby Dean Ryan, himself a former back row forward, has been spoilt for choice at 6,7 and 8, even in the absence of Wales World Cup stars Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty.

Starts have been given to Ollie Griffiths, Huw Taylor, Taine Basham, Lewis Evans, Harri Keddie and now, after three appearances off the bench, it's the turn of Benjamin.

South Wales Argus:

Of all the Dragons' back row options, the Wales Sevens international is arguably the best footballer on the books, so much so that he was tried out as a centre when there was a midfield injury crisis last season.

Benjamin is a classy ballplayer but intends to show that he is just as adept at the dirty work when locking horns with a hefty Castres front eight.

"It's a case of not trying too hard and focusing on the little things. Basics is key, especially in the back row," he said.

"You don't want to be throwing the ball out the back door 30 yards and I've probably grown up from when I was younger in my career.

"It's about doing the basics right, getting into the right position and the chances will come, whether that's in the wider channels or wherever it may be.

"The foundation for any back rower is to work hard and you want to be able to do all the flashy skills but some days you turn up and you might have to rub your nose in the mud for 80 minutes."

South Wales Argus:

Nonetheless, the Dragons' strong recent record against French sides in Newport comes from avoiding a slugfest and being brave in attack.

Last season they were hammered by Clermont Auvergne but in recent years they have beaten Bordeaux-Begles (33-17 and 40-24), Brive (37-16), Pau (22-0), Castres (31-18) and Stade Francais (30-19).

"Castres are a strong team, and have a strong pack. We know what's going to be coming, with their strong set piece and some nice plays in the backs with some big lads, so we will have to front up," said Benjamin.

"The first half will be a huge battle for us and we have to stay in the fight, stay in the arm wrestle and then hopefully wear them down to get the result we want.

"You have to match them in the set piece and you have to match the physicality, but having confidence that we can play is important.

"We do take this competition seriously but in the past we've taken the shackles off and we've played better.

"We have made a couple of changes this week tactically and in the team, but we've got to match them physically in that first half before we can open our wings hopefully."

Benjamin was given his debut by Lyn Jones against Wasps in November 2013 and after also working under Kingsley Jones, Bernard Jackman and Ceri Jones has his fifth boss in Ryan.

"I'm really enjoying it, he's challenging us every day and that's what we need," said Benjamin, who is set for his 62nd Dragons appearance.

"Self-improvement is at the front of minds, both individually and as a collective, and we're doing that every day on the training pitch and we're being pushed really hard."