ALL Dragons are equal, but some Dragons are more equal than others.

New Rodney Parade supremo Bernard Jackman immediately hit the right note on his first press conference in Newport when he declared that he intended to wipe the slate clean.

Inevitably the self-confessed rugby nerd will have already made some judgements on his new squad when he signed on the dotted line at the start of June – he remained a keen viewer of the Guinness PRO12 when living in Grenoble.

However, the former hooker announced that he had already ripped up any depth charts; all players have a crack at being in the XV on the first weekend of September.

In truth, we all know that certain players are shoo-ins when fit – Hallam Amos, Cory Hill, Ollie Griffiths, Brok Harris – but head coaches have to dangle a carrot.

“I don’t care who was number one, two or three last year, I don’t care who couldn’t do this, that or the other. It’s about what they can do now in a different environment,” Jackman said to me last month after putting his players through a high-octane session in Ystrad Mynach.

Such phrases may not be 100 per cent true (early 90s perhaps?) but will have been music to the ears of players who kicked their heels in frustration in 2016/17.

It’s inevitable that a management teams will have their favourites.

I can recall an exasperated Mike Phillips binning any media training after a game at the Millennium Stadium to bemoan the fact that he couldn’t get a look-in at 9 because of Gareth Jenkins’ liking for Dwayne Peel, a preference that went back to their days in Llanelli.

A player just wants to be given a fair opportunity, if they don’t take it then they can only blame themselves.

Jackman will be true to his word this pre-season and hand out chances to all. Now he needs to be rewarded with a handful of resurrections to help fill the gaps in what is still a worryingly small squad.

James Thomas, a versatile forward happiest at blindside, won’t look back fondly on the past two seasons that have been hindered by injury and infrequent game time.

But he is 27 in a couple of weeks and at an age where he can add some real bite to the back row if he returns to his form of 2014/15.

Thomas had been given a second chance as a professional after impressing with Bedwas and grasped it by making 28 appearances, carrying hard and being abrasive in defence.

A Dragons back row sadly deprived of Ed Jackson could do with the Blackwood native hitting the heights that had some tipping him as a Wales bolter two years ago.

While Thomas is a tough, gritty back rower, James Benjamin is a classier operator who must be excited by Jackman’s desire to play a more expansive game.

There remain question marks over whether the 23-year-old from Rogerstone has the size to thrive but there is no doubt he has the footballing ability.

Benjamin will also be eyeing next year’s Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast with Wales 7s but, after making a solitary European Challenge Cup appearance against Worcester last season, should also be looking to push himself as a more expansive option to defensive king Nic Cudd.

The Dragons have a list of many fine players throughout their history who couldn’t quite make the step up to Test rugby and Jack Dixon will be desperate to avoid joining them.

Had the 22-year-old from Newbridge – yes, still only 22 – not suffered a career-threatening kidney injury on his return from the World Cup training squad in 2015 then he could easily already be on the Principality Stadium honours board.

Alas, he has made just 21 appearances since and didn’t really look his best in a frustrating 2016/17, appearing rusty and sluggish at times.

It is easy to pigeonhole Dixon as a crash, bang, wallop centre from the Jamie Roberts mould; a midfield man from the last era of the sport.

But frankly the Dragons missed that go-forward and defensive excellence at times last season, while he also has more to his game than the head-down stuff.

Dixon needs to show some cuter touches and that will only come from being fully-fit and earning a run of games in midfield.

Jackman is mulling over playing a second playmaker at 12 with Gavin Henson and Sam Beard, who was excellent last season, in pole position. Dixon needs to impress quickly because he undoubtedly has the ability.

Elliot Dee certainly can’t be classed as a forgotten man in Dragons terms but the 23-year-old from Newbridge has fallen down the pecking order of Wales’ hooker hopefuls after injury misfortune limited him to just 11 games last season.

The mobile, spikey front rower provides something different to the bulkier Rhys Buckley and new boy Gerard Ellis and is another who can thrive with an attacking Dragons mindset.

While the qualities of Thomas, Benjamin, Dixon and Dee are known to us, Jackman would be thrilled if a couple of players can push themselves into the mix after previously being out in the cold.

Lock Joe Davies, 21, certainly looked like he fitted the bill when coming through with Wales Under-20s – the son of a World Championships silver medallist weightlifter is an imposing figure – but hasn’t had a crack at PRO12 rugby.

Luke Garrett played a small part in helping the Scarlets win the title after going on loan because he was well down the pecking order at loosehead prop.

The Dragons squad is undoubtedly small and will be stretched to breaking point at times this season.

Jackman will look to add quality over the coming years, but in the meantime the new boss will hope to get a tune out of those who previously shrugged with resignation after listening to the team announcement.