THE Dragons are playing it safe with injury-hit Ollie Griffiths so that they can unleash the explosive back rower in the festive derbies.

The 28-year-old from Newbridge was forced off in the 17th minute of the 69-14 hammering at the Sharks in the United Rugby Championship last weekend.

Griffiths suffered an issue with a pectoral muscle, the same problem that limited him to just three appearances last season.

He will sit out Saturday’s game against the Lions in Johannesburg but the injury is not a serious one, with head coach Dai Flanagan labelling it a “performance call”.

Griffiths could be in the mix for the start of the European Challenge Cup which features a home game against Oyonnax and a trip to Pau but the Dragons could opt to hold him back.

They travel to Cardiff on Boxing Day and then host the Scarlets on New Year’s Day – a pair of key battles in their bid to avoid their usual tag as Wales’ worst team.

South Wales Argus: Dragons back rower Ollie GriffithsDragons back rower Ollie Griffiths (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

"It was just a slight tweak of his pec and it was more a performance call,” said Flanagan. "You could see he was carrying it, but Ollie is tough and wouldn't say much.

"There were incidents in the game where he didn't quite look right and when you have Harrison Keddie on the bench, why would you not put him on to fly into things?

"We won't take any risks with Ollie after he spent a long time out last year. We stand a much better chance of winning certain games when he is playing in them.

“He would be okay for Europe but it's whether I use him because there are two big derbies that we need to go after.”

The Dragons hope to have Dan Lydiate back from a rib injury for the festive derbies while his fellow Wales World Cup back rower Taine Basham will be back from suspension for the Pau away game.

Keddie, Wales number eight Aaron Wainwright and lock/flankers Sean Lonsdale, George Nott and Ryan Woodman are the back row options for the Lions game.

Tighthead Lloyd Fairbrother is set to return after being a late withdrawal from the matchday 23 in Durban because of a back issue.

Full-back Jordan Williams was always pencilled in for the Lions game after returning from a back injury and is set for his second start of the season.

The Dragons played the Lions three times last season with a 33-25 defeat in the URC and 31-31 draw in the Challenge Cup in South Africa.

They then paid the price for an awful start in the return European fixture that was shifted to Ystrad Mynach with a stirring comeback falling agonisingly short in a 30-25 loss.