STALWART James Benjamin is confident the Dragons still have the confidence to throw everything at champions Munster despite a frustrating start to the URC.

The Rodney Parade club head to Cork this weekend after a pair of defeats on home soil, letting a commanding lead slip in a 22-17 loss to Edinburgh and then going down 16-9 to Cardiff in a drab derby.

The Dragons haven’t won an away game in the URC since April, 2022 in Llanelli – although they did beat the Scarlets at Judgement Day last season – and few will give them a hope at Munster.

Their only triumph against the Irish province was in the first season of regional rugby and their heaviest defeat was in Limerick two years ago.

“It’s a tough test but we will go there and throw everything at it to try and put our imprint on the game,” insisted hooker Benjamin.

“We’ve got high standards and want to go there with confidence and believing we can put a really good performance in.

“It’s been gutting because both games so far have been tight and on a knife edge but unfortunately they have fallen the other way.

“The battle for us now is to stay positive and keep believing we can get on the right side of things, which I am pretty sure we will.”

South Wales Argus: Dragons hooker James BenjaminDragons hooker James Benjamin (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Benjamin’s pre-season form earned the role of back-up hooker for Bradley Roberts in rounds one and two, at least initially.

Dan Lydiate’s late withdrawal against Cardiff for personal reasons meant it was a flashback performance for the the 29-year-old from Rogerstone.

Most of the Wales Sevens international’s 76 outings for the Dragons have been as a footballing back rower before he was converted to hooker.

When flanker Sean Lonsdale came off in the first quarter against Cardiff, Benjamin came off the bench in the old job.

“I had the heads up and we always practice scenarios in training and did throughout pre-season,” he said. “A lot of us were ready to cover the back row, including [centre Jack] Dixon!”

Another blow to Harri Keddie meant the Dragons played with four locks and no out-and-out back rowers.

“It did take away some of the options that we had prepared for in the week but we just had to problem solve,” said Benjamin. “Up front we did well with the scrum and lineout maul, which we could have got more from.”

World Cup winner Ox Nche famously has the slogan ‘salads don’t win scrums’ and Benjamin, whose mobility and hands previously led to an experiment as a centre, has had to beef up as a hooker.

“I am a bit heavier now, and I felt that in the back row on Sunday! You can’t be too light in the front row,” said Benjamin.

“You need some weight and power behind you so my diet changed and so did my training programme but I am used to it now.

“I do feel like a hooker now because originally I didn’t really have enough games at any level so felt I lacked that bit of experience.

“With the help of Newport RFC at the end of last season, the odd Dragons appearance and then a good pre-season, I feel much more confident. Now I just want to keep putting my hand up for the team.”