THE Dragons will face Bristol in their Challenge Cup quarter-final in mid-September while European rugby bosses have confirmed they are considering changes that would see the Rodney Parade region play in the top tier next season.

Dean Ryan’s men had been supposed to travel to Ashton Gate for a last-eight tie on Sunday, April 5 only for the coronavirus pandemic to lead to its suspension.

The fixture, which would be likely to be played behind closed doors, has now been pencilled in for the weekend of September 18 along with the other Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarters.

The exact date, time, venue and TV coverage is yet to be confirmed.

The semi-finals – with the Bears or Dragons playing either Edinburgh or Bordeaux-Begles – will take place the following weekend with the Challenge Cup final on Friday, October 16, the night before the Champions Cup final.

“Subject to government guidelines and with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community to the fore, it is now planned that the quarter-finals of both tournaments will be played on the weekend of 18/19/20 September with the semi-finals scheduled for the weekend of 25/26/27 September,” read a European Professional Club Rugby statement.

“The European season will conclude with the Challenge Cup final on Friday, 16 0ctober followed by the Heineken Champions Cup final on Saturday, 17 October.

“EPCR remains committed to staging the matches in Marseille, however, the situation is under review in light of public gathering and international travel restrictions which might be in place at the time of the finals.

“EPCR and the local organising committee in Marseille intend to clarify the position regarding the finals, including details of ticket refunds where applicable, as soon as possible.”

The Dragons are also set to play Champions Cup rugby for the first time since 2011 as part of an expanded competition for one season only.

“New Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournament formats for the 2020/21 season are being considered as a consequence of widespread fixture disruption caused by the C0VID-19 pandemic,” said EPCR.

“A 24-club Heineken Champions Cup with eight representatives from each of Europe's leading league competitions is one of the options under discussion.

“Any changes would apply to next season's tournaments, which are scheduled to start on the weekend of 11/12/13 December, only on an exceptional basis.”

The Dragons will tune up for their date with Bristol with two rounds of Guinness PRO14 action at the end of August, travelling to the Ospreys and hosting the Scarlets.

Both squads will be much-changed from the planned April date with Jonah Holmes, Nick Tompkins and Joe Maksymiw among Ryan's recruits while Cory Hill and Tyler Morgan have left.

South Wales Argus:

Bears boss Pat Lam has had a productive recruitment drive with Fijian superstar Semi Radradra, Lions prop Kyle Sinckler and Saracens duo Ben Earl and Max Malins joining their battle for the English Premiership play-offs.

The Dragons have won all three of their previous Challenge Cup quarter-finals – against Brive in 2007 and Cardiff Blues in 2015 in Newport and at Gloucester in 2016.

Champions Cup quarter-finals: Exeter v Northampton, Toulouse v Ulster, Leinster v Saracens, Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92

Challenge Cup quarter-finals: Bristol v Dragons, Toulon v Scarlets, Bordeaux-Begles v Edinburgh, Leicester v Castres.