THE Dragons’ Champions Cup experience was brief but they still get the chance to test themselves against high-class opposition on the European stage this evening.

Dean Ryan’s men finished the Guinness PRO14 with a flourish but will get an indication of their progress at Rodney Parade.

They entertain Northampton in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup (kick-off 5.30pm) with the winners going on to host either Harlequins or Ulster in the quarter-finals.

The Dragons have been hit by a pair of front row injury blows with the loss of the experienced Brok Harris and Richard Hibbard but have still named a strong side.

They will need to be on top form against a Saints side who sit fifth in the English Premiership and are fresh from giving Worcester a nine-try drubbing.

Here are four key battles in the knockout European clash…

South Wales Argus: CHANCE: Greg Bateman replaces the injured Brok HarrisCHANCE: Greg Bateman replaces the injured Brok Harris


Bateman is an experienced campaigner and knows all about the Saints from his time with Leicester.

The loosehead has big boots to fill after the loss of Harris to a hamstring strain; the South African is dependable around the park and at set piece.

Bateman's first season at Rodney Parade has been hindered by injury but this is a chance to make a big statement.


Williams gets the nod ahead of Argentina scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou, who will be charged with adding zip from the bench.

The captain's game control wins the day and the competition with the Puma should bring the best out of him.

Livewire Mitchell is a serious threat - he scored at Rodney Parade in 2018 - and is now the Saints' main man at 9 after the departure of Springbok Cobus Reinach.

South Wales Argus: DANGERMAN: Rory Hutchinson will be prominent for the SaintsDANGERMAN: Rory Hutchinson will be prominent for the Saints


Roberts is back from a dead leg to start at inside centre and he will need to be on his game defensively against a Saints side that thrive in the wide channels.

The former Wales and Lions centre will also take the direct route with ball in hand, aiming to soften up the Northampton defence to get the dangerous back three running.

Expect him to switch around with ball-playing midfield parner Aneurin Owen, whose form keeps Nick Tompkins on the bench.

Scotland international Hutchinson is a well-rounded player; strong and defensively sound but also comfortable on the ball.


A key battle that won't take place until late on.

Brown was a Six Nations sub and continues to play back-up to in-form Lloyd Fairbrother.

That shows the importance of finishing strongly and the Dragons will need their dynamic tighthead to add energy.

The Saints will expect the same from the vastl-experienced Waller, club co-captain.


Dragons: J Williams; J Holmes, A Owen, J Roberts, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (captain); G Bateman, E Dee, L Fairbrother, J Davies, M Screech, A Wainwright, H Keddie, R Moriarty.
Replacements: T Davies, J Reynolds, L Brown, B Carter, D Baker, G Bertranou, E Lloyd, N Tompkins.
Northampton: H Mallinder; O Sleightholme, F Dingwall, R Hutchinson, T Naiyaravoro; J Grayson, A Mitchell; N Auterac, M Haywood, E Painter, A Moon, A Coles, N Isiekwe, JJ Tonks, T Harrison (captain).
Replacements: S Matavesi, A Waller, O Heffernan, L Bean, S Adendorff, H Taylor, A Tuala, T Collins.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)