DRAGONS boss Dean Ryan says that prop Greg Bateman will suffer a "considerable" spell on the sidelines after a "significant" hamstring pull.

The 31-year-old loosehead, who signed in September after leaving Leicester after a pay dispute, made his debut as a replacement against Zebre in September.

Bateman was then given a first start in the loss to Ulster in Belfast but suffered a hamstring injury just before he was set to be replaced on the hour.

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An operation is not needed but the experienced prop faces a lengthy spell of rehab that is likely to rule him out of the festive derbies as well as the European Champions Cup campaign.

South Wales Argus:

"The injury is more significant that we first thought," admitted director of rugby Ryan. "We were about to substitute him and he then had a significant pull of the hamstring.

"It's pretty difficult to put a time on that, but it's not days and a small amount of weeks, it's more considerable than that."

Ryan has stalwart Brok Harris, promising 21-year-old Josh Reynolds and Irishman Conor Maguire, who earned a deal after impressing on trial, as his options at loosehead.

Former Wales prop Aaron Jarvis can play both sides of the scrum but is needed at tighthead while Leon Brown is on Test duty.

"It is a blow, that was a strengthening of our front row, but it's also an opportunity for others to come in," said Ryan.

"Conor and Josh are two that we have a view on for the long term and this offers them more opportunities."

The Dragons return to action at Benetton on Sunday after an enforced four-week break because of a coronavirus outbreak.

South Wales Argus:

Full-back Jordan Williams is once again set to be absent as he works his way back to full fitness after ruptured knee ligaments.

The livewire runner made a surprise return ahead of schedule in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bristol and then scored two tries versus Zebre in October.

However, the 27-year-old has been suffering from other issues in his leg as a result of returning after a lengthy lay-off.

"The key around him coming back is the recognition that you don't come back and everything is okay," said Ryan.

"You find that a year of rehabbing has probably created some other issues, and he has had some issues around tightness.

"We can't expect Jordan to come back and hit the ground running; he is back before he was expected and we have got to get it right.

"The danger is that he is a hugely influential player for us, so the desire to see him back can override what is good for him.

"We've just got to get that balance right and not expect it to be be smooth running all the time, and we are probably in a space where it's not going that smoothly."

Williams' absence could lead to Josh Lewis, a fly-half by trade, remaining at full-back after a solid showing in the loss to Munster last time out.

The Dragons beat Zebre in round two and lost convincingly to the big three Irish provinces Leinster, Ulster and Munster.

Winless Benetton suffered a last-gasp defeat to the Ospreys in Swansea last weekend and have also been beaten by Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets, as well as Ulster and Leinster.

The fixture in Treviso was originally scheduled for Monday but has been shifted forward a day with a 4pm kick-off.