BOSS Dean Ryan wants his Dragons to be excited by the challenge of facing reigning Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster in their own backyard to launch the new season.

Dragons jet to Dublin to face the successful Irish province at the RDS Arena on Friday evening (kick-off 8.15pm).

Director of Dragons Rugby Ryan admits his team have been handed an ultra-tough start to the new campaign – just weeks after the European Challenge Cup quarter-final with Bristol Bears.

But he insists his side must embrace the challenge as it is the only way they will improve and be competitive at the highest level.

“There are two ways of looking at this fixture,” said Ryan.

“You are either daunted by going to Leinster or really excited by the challenge and we have tried to sit in that second camp.

“We’ve had a strange start to the season in that two weeks ago we played a quarter-final. None of those look like a nice easy way into a season.


“A quarter-final against Bristol Bears after six months doing nothing and then into Leinster who got wounded in Europe last time out.

“There are easier ways to wander into a season, but for us we are really excited about trying to be more competitive at the highest level.

“If we played Leinster six weeks later in the middle of the autumn series then we would definitely still be challenged, because the Leinster back-up team is an outstanding team.

“Starting the season there, playing against a side that potentially is licking its wounds, is exactly where we are going to learn and exactly how we get better.

“We learnt more about ourselves in the Bristol game than in many others.

“The team are in a space that is about getting out there, being excited and let’s look to learn from playing some of the best teams around.”

Dragons started the game against Bristol Bears well, with Ashton Hewitt finishing off a well-worked try, the winger finishing superbly after fielding a cross-kick, and five points from the boot of Sam Davies.

But the Bears responded with tries by Nathan Hughes and Ben Earl (2) to lead 24-10 at the break and then they eased away through Fijian superstar Semi Radradra’s early score.

Captain Rhodri Williams gave the Dragons slim hope but Bristol made the scoreboard look ugly with three more tries in the closing stages through Chris Vui, Max Malins and Dan Thomas.