DEAN Ryan says the Dragons “haven’t even thought about” next month’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final, insisting their focus is on the Guinness PRO14 run-in.

The Dragons have eight league games left after tonight’s visit of Benetton to Rodney Parade (kick-off 7.35pm), with their cup clash against Bristol just over four weeks away on April 5.

While any chance of silverware in the PRO14 may now be remote, Ryan has stressed the importance of a strong finish in the league to starting next season well.

“We haven’t even thought about Bristol, they are just one-off games,” he said. “Our focus is on the 10 or 11-game run-in in the PRO14.

“When we reflect in the summer, it’s important we finish that run-in the right way because that’s how you springboard to start better the following season.

“We know that’s the challenge because everyone gets to full strength as they start the run-in, but some people realise they’re not where they want to be at that time of year.”

The Dragons sit fifth in Conference A, 10 points behind the Cheetahs and nearly 40 adrift of leaders Leinster.

Benetton, whose home game against Ulster last weekend was postponed because of the coronavirus, are one from bottom in Conference B.

Tonight’s fixture takes place three weeks after the original date – and the decision to postpone some 48 hours before kick-off due to the forecasted impact of Storm Dennis still rankles with Ryan.

“We’re frustrated about losing the fixture in the first place,” he said.

“It’s certainly something that was raised with PRO14, just about the risk of competition integrity when you start moving fixtures three or four days before.

“Wins are hugely important at this time of year and when you get to the end of the season you look back at what the difference would have been if you could have played those games at those times.

“You can see off the back of the last few weeks that we haven’t got into a rhythm of playing.

“We played two games off the back of five weeks off and in some really poor conditions.

“We need to continue to play to get into that final raft of games.”

Despite not being able to get into a rhythm, Ryan has been vocal in his praise for the younger players in the Dragons squad.

“At the weekend, although it wasn’t pretty, for Josh Reynolds to hold a full-on African scrum out from our 22 was a huge step,” he added.

“For Ellis Shipp to play 80 minutes and Will Talbot-Davies to come back, those names are all under 23 and we ended up with over a third of our squad running what was basically an age-grade side in a PRO14 game and getting a win.

“Our win last weekend shows we are making progress, but some individuals are going to have to come in and get their names on that roster so they are still part of it going forward.”