THE Dragons' return to European rugby's top tier was short-lived with the region likely to have a knockout Challenge Cup derby clash in April.

The Rodney Parade region played in the Champions Cup for the first time since 2011 when they locked horns with Wasps and Bordeaux-Begles in December.

They were the beneficiaries of the premier tournament being expanded because of the coronavirus pandemic – the PRO14 got eight spots rather than seven, meaning the Dragons didn't have to travel to Connacht for a play-off – but have now been hit by the competitions being put on hold.

The French government blocked Top 14 clubs from playing in Europe because of the new coronavirus strain.

South Wales Argus:

Fixtures, including the Dragons' home clash with Bordeaux-Begles on Sunday and trip to Coventry next Saturday, were initially postponed but Premiership Rugby has said they have now been cancelled.

PRL chief executive Darren Childs says the group stages have been abandoned due to the lack of space in an already hectic schedule.

Tournament organisers EPCR will decide within the fortnight what format the competitions should take, with a knockout phase launched by a round of 16 the likely option.

The Dragons failed to record any points against Wasps and Bordeaux-Begles when they were hindered by Covid-19 positives and isolation.

That means they are bottom of Champions Cup Pool One but with a better points difference than both Harlequins and Glasgow.

If the draw is decided on points then they would travel to Cardiff Blues, who are third in the Challenge Cup table, but if it is on placings then they would head to the Ospreys, who are second.

The Dragons beat the 2010 and 2018 winners Blues at Rodney Parade in the last eight of the tournament in 2015 while the Ospreys have never won a knockout European tie.

Whatever happens, the Dragons' return to the premier competition has been brief and frustrating.

"The decision was made very quickly by the executive at EPCR that we would not try to reschedule those games," Childs said.

"We have a tough season. There's no space at the end of the season because of the Lions and we have no spare weekends in our season once we resume.

"To play European rounds when the Lions is taking place would have been very damaging to the European tournament. So it was decided very quickly by all three leagues CEOs that we would complete the tournament in the four remaining weekends.

"Everyone is managing their domestic and international calendars to the best of their ability. The exact structure has not been agreed and we've already started those discussions."

The European competitions will be played to a finish with two weekends set aside for games in April and another in early may.

The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals are scheduled for Marseille on the weekend of May 22.

Boss Ryan pledged that the Dragons would train hard in Ystrad Mynach to make up for their unplanned two-week break.

They return to action with home fixtures against Connacht and Edinburgh on Friday, February 5 and 12 in the PRO14.