‘OPPORTUNITY’ is the dominant buzzword of the Dean Ryan era at the Dragons and it is certainly knocking for Joe Maksymiw in the Champions Cup.

It has been a slow start to life at Rodney Parade for the towering, 6ft 8ins lock after his summer move from Connacht.

There was an opening in the second row following Cory Hill’s decision to leave for Cardiff Blues but Maksymiw, who came through the ranks at Leicester before moving to Ireland, is yet to nail down a starting spot.

In the XV against the Ospreys.

Out against the Scarlets and Bristol.

In against Leinster.

Out against Zebre, Ulster and Glasgow.

Then came a huge call from Ryan for the Champions Cup opener against Wasps, who fielded England Joe Launchbury and Wales’ Will Rowlands in the boilerhouse.

The director of rugby kept teenage prospect Ben Carter in the Dragons XV and plumped for Maksymiw ahead of stalwart Matthew Screech, who was set to be on the bench until coronavirus forced to him to be withdraw.

South Wales Argus: CHALLENGE: Joe Maksymiw climbs high against Will RowlandsCHALLENGE: Joe Maksymiw climbs high against Will Rowlands

It was a solid showing against Test-quality opposition and the challenges keep coming thick and fast with the big units of Bordeaux-Begles next up tonight.

Welsh-qualified Maksymiw, who is partnered by Joe Davies at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, knows that there are festive derby starts up for grabs.

“It’s been a little bit in and out, a little bit disjointed,” said the 25-year-old about the start of his Dragons career.

“I’m hoping now that I can build on last week’s performance, get better, improve and try and keep my spot in the team.

“But as I say there is a lot of competition here, so I just need to keep working hard and hopefully by getting my head down that gets me in the team.”

Coronavirus restrictions mean that he isn’t yet sure whether it will be a Christmas in the Midlands or with housemate Jonah Holmes – “I wouldn’t leave him to the cooking though, he is absolutely terrible at it. He eats lentils, tuna and sweetcorn pretty much for every meal” – but he wants to spend Boxing Day with 5 on his back.

A strong display would do Maksymiw the power of good in his tussle with Screech, Davies and Carter for the spots in the festive derbies against Cardiff Blues, the Scarlets and Ospreys.

With Rowlands likely to head to Rodney Parade next season, competition is strong and set to get stronger.

South Wales Argus:

“I personally think that is only good for us, we’ve got a lot of second rows all competing for a spot it’s only going to make us all better.

“This year ‘Carts’ has burst onto the scene but that is only good for the rest of us, it just means we are going to have to up our game. He’s playing really well and did outstandingly at Glasgow.”

The Dragons are down to the bare bones for Bordeaux courtesy of injuries, Covid positives and isolation.

They will have to be at their very best at the set piece versus a formidable home pack boasting Australia internationals Kane Douglas and Scott Higginbotham and France flanker Cameron Woki with Les Bleus’ Alexandre Flanquart and Marco Tauleigne plus Tongan giant Ben Tameifuna to come from the bench.

“It is a cliché, but they are sort of a standard French side,” said Maksymiw. “A very big team, big forwards and class out in the backs.

“We know what’s coming and they don’t hide what’s coming, so we just need to front up really and hopefully go from there.

“We were in the game for 70 minutes against Wasps. Everyone is together so there is definitely a belief we can cause a shock.”