DRAGONS head coach Dai Flanagan says his players have to use the pain of back-to-back defeats to Edinburgh and Cardiff and “come out swinging” when they head to Munster on Saturday.

Flanagan admits that the squad is hurting after kicking off the new United Rugby Championship season with two lacklustre performances at Rodney Parade.

And he knows that challenges hardly come any bigger than facing the reigning champions away from home.

The Irish province have lost just one game at Cork’s Musgrave Park since 2016 and the Dragons’ only previous victory on Munster soil was at Thomond Park in March 2004.

But Flanagan’s men did manage to beat Graham Rowntree’s side at Rodney Parade last September and he’s hoping for a repeat this weekend.

“It’s quite sobering in the environment at the moment,” said the Dragons chief.

“It’s a place that hasn’t won much for a long time and I think you can feel the pain in the group, specifically over these last two weeks – there’s a real hurt.

“It shows how much every individual here cares about the place, cares about each other, and cares about the outcomes at the weekend.

“We have to use that hurt,” added Flanagan. “We’ve got a six-day turnaround and we go to Munster against the reigning champions, who we haven’t beaten away from home since 2004.

“It’s a great challenge for us and one I’m sure we’ll meet head on.

“We’ll rotate the squad; we have to with a six-day turnaround away from home after two physical games.

“We’re excited to get back on the field because sometimes that’s the only way you can put some wrongs right.”

Asked what his side needs to do to record a rare away win against Munster, Flanagan said: “Firstly, we need to get our bodies right. We need to get our 23 fittest, healthiest players available for selection.

“And then we need to get our tactics right. We’ve had eight clear opportunities to score tries in the past two weeks, and we’ve only taken one.

“To win games, you’ve got to execute at least 50 per cent of them to score tries and that’s our challenge now.

“I think, on reflection, we’ve been very neutral [in the first two games] – we haven’t done much wrong, but we haven’t done much right – and it’s hard to win games at this level playing that way.”

The Dragons’ cause won’t be helped by the fact that seven players have been selected to play for Wales against the Barbarians – hooker Elliot Dee, tighthead Leon Brown, lock Ben Carter, back rowers Dan Lydiate and Aaron Wainwright, wing Rio Dyer and full-back/fly-half Cai Evans.

But Flanagan will not be using that as an excuse if things go wrong.

“It’s great for our boys to represent their nation,” he said. “Any opportunity any of our squad have got to play for their country we’re fully supportive of that.

“We need to live in an environment where it’s ‘next man up’ and that’s what this opportunity presents us.

“To build a squad, you’ve got to give people experiences. Ideally, you’d do it around the group of players available. Sometimes your back is against the wall, and you’ve got to come out swinging. And that’s the opportunity it’s given us this week.”

The internationals, including Argentina’s Gonzalo Bertranou, should be back to face Leinster in Newport on November 12.

Sean Lonsdale, Harri Keddie and one other player will miss out this weekend after suffering concussions against Cardiff.