DEAN Ryan says there could be a handful of "wildcards" in his Dragons team for the European Challenge Cup quarter-final at Bristol after choosing to give all of his squad a chance to shine in Welsh derbies.

The Rodney Parade region finish the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 with a trip to the Ospreys on Sunday followed by a home fixture against the Scarlets next Saturday.

READ MORE: The line-ups for the Ospreys v Dragons

The Liberty Stadium side, who can still overtake the Dragons in Conference A, have gone fully-loaded with Justin Tipuric, Alun Wyn Jones, George North and Rhys Webb in their XV.

But Ryan is looking to the Bristol tie on September 18 as well as the October kick-off for the next PRO14 campaign after six months on the sidelines.

Captain Rhodri Williams, Wales internationals Jonah Holmes, Elliot Dee and Ollie Griffiths and wing Jared Rosser are among those who will not head to Swansea.

Nonetheless, all of the Dragons XV that will line up against the Ospreys are genuine contenders to start against the Bears.

That includes aggressive blindside Ben Fry after the 21-year-old was given a first PRO14 start as reward for an impressive return to training.

South Wales Argus:

"It's about the balance," said Ryan. "You hate starting seasons without creating enough opportunities.

"We haven't got a Celtic Cup this year so there is already a challenge in Wales about how those fringe players play. We have also got to get some combination stuff right over two weeks.

"We'd certainly like to think that we can create opportunities for people who are realistic contenders for Bristol, but we won't be in a position where we can create opportunities for everybody.

"Selection over the next couple of weeks is very much about that stepping stone to Bristol with maybe four or five wildcards that might really step up and say they could be in the mix.

"This week is new ground for us. It is a competitive game without real periods of preparation.

"Fingers crossed and we hope we have got the pre-season element of it right and we have got to get playing and people have got to get robust again.

"Nobody in their career would have experienced the last six months so we have got to get everyone flying ready for the new season."

South Wales Argus: STARTER: Jack Dixon wears 12 against the OspreysSTARTER: Jack Dixon wears 12 against the Ospreys

Tomorrow's game gives Jack Dixon the chance to impress at 12 after Jamie Roberts tested positive for coronavirus.

The Lions powerhouse was unlikely to face the Ospreys anyway after only joining at the start of the month but the 33-year-old could still be an option against Bristol.

The Dragons will play it safe with full-back Jordan Williams and fly-half Josh Lewis, who are both returning after serious knee injuries.

The pair could play if pushed but the next PRO14 gets under way in just seven weeks and Ryan is keen to avoid stressing his thin squad, which will lose Wales internationals for large chunks of the season.

He said: "We wouldn't normally go into a competitive game without a pre-season game. We've been trying to replicate intensity in training, but the reality is there is no replicating competition.

"It will be interesting this week and I don't think anyone has the blueprint.

"We have a couple of guys who are long-term who are being integrated back and I'm also very conscious that this is a huge season and that doesn't start to October.

"We have got to be careful. As a squad, we have always had a balance of experience and youth and we have got to be careful that we manage it."