THERE is nothing Dean Ryan would love more on team announcement day in Ystrad Mynach than looking up to see 15 pleased faces while frowns on every single other player show that they think he's dropped a clanger.

The Dragons director of rugby needs to get to a position where more players head into those meetings expecting to be selected rather than bracing themselves for fitness drills on matchday.

A few eyebrows were raised when Ryan made his selection for the return in the Guinness PRO14 against the Ospreys.

A number of leading figures were left out and it will be the same again when he names his 23 to face the Scarlets at midday tomorrow.

READ MORE: Dragons set to tinker with team for return to Parade

Were it not for George North's red card then it could have been a chastening afternoon at the Liberty Stadium but instead Ryan's men were able to scramble for a draw against hosts who played for over an hour with a numerical disadvantage.

They will need to be much, much better against Wales' best team and strongest squad this weekend.

Yet Ryan is sticking to his plan for these two bolted-on games at the end of the 2019/20 PRO14; plenty of chances will be dished out in the derbies with a number of "wildcards" given the chance to put themselves in the mix for the European quarter-final in Bristol.

South Wales Argus:

He doesn't want an established pecking order.

We can all name a Dragons XV that we feel is the strongest but the key to the region making progress is having a second XV that still looks pretty handy.

It's by getting there that they can turn baby steps into strides and Ryan realises the limits to what his new-look coaching team can achieve.

"Competition is great. I have never in any time in the last 20 years shifted a player through coaching as much as competition does," said the former Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester supremo.

"Us getting stronger in more positions is exactly where I want the Dragons to be. Selection being difficult is a great place to be."

The size of a drop-off in quality kills teams. It's what has caused the downfall of my club Leicester in recent years – there haven't been many bigger drop-offs in professional rugby than from George Ford to his understudies at 10.

Down the A6 and Chris Boyd has been getting things right at Northampton with the New Zealander giving an insight into his methods in an excellent interview with the Daily Mail.

"In cricket, they use bar diagrams to show how the team's run rate progresses as you go through the overs," he said.

"After 20 overs, you've got these skyscrapers that look like the Manhattan skyline. We applied a similar thing to our squad.

"For every skyscraper you've got, you've got to have a one-storey dwelling to balance it out. If you've got six or seven buildings over 30 storeys, then you'd better be prepared to accept a whole lot of structures that are only one storey high.

"Teams are about balance. You need your X-factor players with your glue players, power players with your speed players, developing players with your experienced players, good team men with your mavericks. It's a melting pot."

The Dragons added three pretty tall buildings this summer in Nick Tompkins, Jonah Holmes and Jamie Roberts, while two left in Cory Hill and Tyler Morgan.

But key to them getting better isn't necessarily about them signing better players, although that clearly helps.

It's about them reducing the gap from first to second or third in the depth chart through improvement.

South Wales Argus:

I would suggest that whenever a Dragons supporter gets carried away about the 2019/20 season they should be made to watch the home games against Zebre and Benetton.

The viewing of those fixtures on international weekends is so grim that Clockwork Orange eyelid clamps may be needed.

But all 23 players that took to the field against the Ospreys were genuine contenders for the quarter-final against Bristol but I'd argue that only seven of them could be considered nailed-on starters if fit.

I would be surprised if Nick Tompkins, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Brok Harris, Leon Brown, Matthew Screech and Ross Moriarty are not in the XV for Ashton Gate and the absence of Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright from that list demostrates what Ryan wants.

They were in the Six Nations squad but Ben Fry had the opportunity to put a cat among the pigeons and the abrasive blindside grasped it. The task for the 21-year-old now is to back up that performance.

At hooker you'd expect Elliot Dee and Richard Hibbard to face the Bears but suddenly Ellis Shipp is in the mix.

The Dragons need more of that and a hectic 2020/21, complete with plenty of Test rugby, will stretch their resources.

It would be terrific for them to give it a real go against the Scarlets on Saturday, going fully-loaded in the hunt for a second Newport win of the season against Wales' standard bearers.

But Ryan is right about this being a golden opportunity to give outings to some players who normally wouldn't head into the team announcement with any expectation of having their name called out in derby week.

It's up to those individuals to grasp those chances so that they don't have a look of resignation when the XV is selected for more meaningful clashes with the Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues next year.