THE Dragons have been given the prized slot of a home derby fixture against Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day – but face missing out on a bumper crowd.

Chances of fans being back in the stands by December look slim after the UK government pulled the plug on trials using social distancing in sporting venues because of a fears of a second wave of coronavirus.

It would take a dramatic turnaround for Rodney Parade to be welcoming sizeable crowds this year, denying the Dragons their biggest financial day for the second season on the spin after the pandemic meant the Blues didn’t make the short trip east in 2019/20.

The loss of the revenue from the derby will be a blow to the region, who welcomed 7,376 fans through the turnstiles for the fixture in 2018 and announced the crowd as 8,722 when given the Boxing Day slot in 2017.

South Wales Argus: PACKED: The Bisley Stand was sold out in 2017 for the visit of Cardiff BluesPACKED: The Bisley Stand was sold out in 2017 for the visit of Cardiff Blues

The Dragons normally sell around 1,500 season tickets and supporters now know what fixtures they are set to miss out on in the Guinness PRO14 after the schedule was announced up until 2021.

Dean Ryan’s squad kick off the campaign in Leinster next Friday (8.15pm) before enjoying home advantage in the same time slot the following Friday against Zebre.

After a break for the European finals, the Dragons return with a trip to Ulster on Saturday, October 25.

The November period will stretch squads while Test players are absent, with director of rugby Ryan without Nick Tompkins, Jonah Holmes, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty plus potentially Ashton Hewitt, Taine Basham and Sam Davies.

Irish provinces Munster and Connacht before a trip to Glasgow.

Then the Dragons play their first Monday night fixtures with a 6pm home game against Edinburgh on November 23 followed by a trip to Treviso to face Benetton.

Champions Cup group games sandwich a trio of festive derbies - the Dragons hosting Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day, travelling to the Scarlets on January 2 or 3 and then hosting the Ospreys on January 9 or 10.

South Wales Argus:

Meanwhile, PRO14 chiefs are in discussions over the possibility of expanding the competition through the addition of more South African franchises next year.

The coronavirus pandemic means the Cheetahs will be unable to take part in the 2020-21 competition until January, while the Southern Kings have entered administration.

Once a replacement for the Kings have been found, it is hoped that more South African teams will join as talks with South African Rugby continue.

"SA Rugby's long-standing commitments are to field two teams in the PRO14," a statement read.

"In light of the withdrawal of the Southern Kings, discussions are ongoing about fulfilling this agreement from 2021 using a replacement team from its current professional franchises.

"Additionally, PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby are in early discussions about potentially expanding the tournament and deepening our partnership to include more South African franchises from 2021."

Friday, October 2 (8.15pm) - Leinster, away
Friday, October 9 (8.15pm) - Zebre, home
Sunday, October 25 (3pm) - Ulster, away
Sunday, November 1 (2pm) - Munster, home
Saturday, November 7 (5.15pm) - Connacht, home
Sunday, November 15 (6.30pm) - Glasgow, away
Monday, November 23 (6pm) - Edinburgh, home
Monday, November 30 (6pm) - Benetton, away