THE Dragons are set to welcome Europe’s big guns to Rodney Parade in the Champions Cup next season for the first time since 2011.

The Guinness PRO14 have confirmed that the 2019/20 campaign, which has been suspended since March, will finish with derby clashes and that there are no plans for a Champions Cup play-off.

The Argus understands that the Dragons management have been told to prepare to be in with Europe’s elite when the 2020/21 competitions begin.

European bosses are poised to expand the premier tournament for one season because of the coronavirus crisis with the PRO14 providing eight teams rather than seven.

That means there will be no need for Connacht to host the Dragons for the final spot after the rankings for European qualification were decided on Conference table positions from round 13.

South Wales Argus:

Dean Ryan’s men are fifth but the fourth-placed Cheetahs, from South Africa, are not eligible for Europe.

Under Pro14 rules they will qualify to mix it with the likes of Toulouse, Racing 92, Exeter and Leinster’s firsts despite finishing with fewer points than both Benetton and Cardiff Blues in Conference B.

The Dragons have played in the Challenge Cup for the last nine seasons since Paul Turner's side were doubled by Toulouse, Glasgow and Wasps in 2011.

READ MORE: Ryan on playing in the Champions Cup

Before heading into the Champions Cup the Dragons will face Bristol in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, a tie that is set to be played behind closed doors in September.

The return of the PRO14 gives the Dragons the chance to prepare for that clash with the Bears with Ryan’s men playing a pair of derbies to complete the regular season.

League bosses haven’t confirmed the fixtures but clashes against the west Wales duo of the Scarlets and Ospreys are likely, played behind closed doors.

The regular season has been cut from 21 rounds to 15 while the play-offs will take place with the target of a final on Saturday, September 12.

The top two in the conferences - set to be Leinster and Ulster, Edinburgh and Munster - will contest the semi-finals.

The aim is for the first round of next season to be on October 3.

“Safety has been, and will continue to be, the highest priority as we look to activate our plans to restart the 2019/20 season," said PRO14 tournament director David Jordan.

"We are very fortunate to be in a position where everyone involved is confident that we can conclude the season on the field of play.

“The work and diligence of our leading medical personnel at our unions, our clubs, World Rugby and key stakeholders to get us to this point has been immense.

"Operating across five territories often brings different complexities to the Guinness PRO14 but our unions have worked hard to bring proposals to their governments so we may put plans into action.”

Proposed PRO14 rounds

Round 14: Saturday, August 22

Round 15: Saturday, August 29

Semi-Finals: Saturday, September 5

Final: Saturday, September 12