SLAVA Stadium in Moscow may not be the focus of too much attention on another bumper weekend of European action yet it will host 80 minutes of rugby that are vital for the feelgood factor surrounding the Dragons.

The Challenge Cup doesn’t float everybody’s boat – and the television coverage of the tournament can be pitiful – but it’s provided plenty of light in dark times at Rodney Parade in recent campaigns.

After making the semi-finals for two seasons on the spin, there was great disappointment that a defeat in a winner-takes-all clash in Brive led to elimination in January. Gone was the chance to experience a repeat of the glorious highs against Cardiff Blues and Gloucester in the last eight.

The Challenge Cup is an unwelcome distraction for some clubs and it’s fair to assume it is a little way off the top of head coach Bernard Jackman’s list of priorities in his first campaign, for now at least.

The Irishman will be determined to achieve a strong record on Newport soil in all competitions, he will want to claim a big Guinness PRO14 scalp or two and he will want some long-awaited derby success.

Yet a trip to Russia is one that can keep alive hopes of qualification going into the New Year, and avoid presenting ammunition to those that want to give the Dragons a kicking.

Management teams frequently say that it’s their job to shelter the squad from outside noise; a single defeat (or win for that matter) doesn’t dictate whether they are making progress.

But after a 38-18 humiliation against Enisei-STM in Krasnodar 12 months ago, the new-look Dragons have to avoid a repeat in the Russian capital.

It’s been a solid start to the season in terms of results and a very encouraging one in terms of the style of play, while there have been some important off-field changes that give a different feel to the place.

Much of that good work will be dented by a poor show against an Enisei-STM side who have shown they are no pushovers, but who should still be dispatched by professionals.

Sure, it’s a transitional season but a defeat in Moscow would have even those of us who are cautiously optimistic fearing it’s the same old, same old.

On the flip side, while a win by the Dragons would create barely a ripple on a European weekend featuring 20 fixtures, it would be a real confidence booster at Ystrad Mynach.

A success would end that 18-month losing streak away from Rodney Parade ahead of far more challenging PRO14 fixtures in Swansea, Dublin and Cork.

A success would show the mettle of the squad after the rigours of tough travel to Russia.

And, most importantly, a success would keep the Dragons right in the mix for a spot in the quarter-finals after they opened up with a consolation bonus point at Kingston Park.

With Newcastle and Enisei heading to Newport in December and then a January double-header against Bordeaux-Begles it will still be very up for grabs.

Last season the Dragons took 14 from 15 points from home games against Worcester, Brive and Enisei-STM but failed to make the last eight because they didn’t get anything on their travels.

A return of six points from the first two rounds would be a steady start given that last season Stade Francais earned the final quarter-final spot with 20 points, in 2016 London Irish sneaked it with 17 and the year before Newcastle had 21.

We are all prepared to have a bit of patience while the Dragons embark on their rebuilding after years of neglect but that doesn’t mean we don’t want some fun.

That equals meaningful games for those punters who are digging deep for season tickets and proper encounters for Jackman to learn about his current squad.

South Wales Argus:

SIMPLICITY can be a wonderful thing on a rugby field, an overlap executed well or a solid five-metre scrum followed by a slick pass and rapid clearance kick, but sadly it was never going to be lauded when Wales confirmed their new more straightforward selection policy.

The announcement led to a glut of folk doing a pretty good impression of Mr You-Don't-Wanna-Do-It-Like-That from Harry Enfield and Chums.

Some would have no limit at all, others would set it higher than 60 caps, there are those who would be ridiculously hard-line with a play in Wales to play for Wales policy.

But the removal of the asterisks, get-outs and confusion that went with the previous so-called Gatland’s Law has to be welcomed. It needs to bite; there can be no grey areas and there can be no exceptions.

One feels sorry for Rhys Webb but he has to be ineligible even though he claims he was unaware of the imminent change when signing for Toulon. If Dan Biggar is unlucky enough to suffer injury and get stranded before hitting 60 caps then, sadly, tough.

The result of this policy must be clarity and the chance to strengthen the regions AND Wales while also recognising that players deserve to be rewarded for service with bumper deals and a fresh challenges.

Individuals will still be picked off by English and French clubs – and it will be interesting to note if fringe sub-60 players become more attractive without the possibility of Test call-ups – but the success of the change will be determined by how the quintet work together.

The Welsh Rugby Union need to be better at how they allocate the pot for national dual contracts (were they really needed for Dragons duo Hallam Amos and Tyler Morgan or Dan Baker and Rory Thornton at the Ospreys?) while, even in these challenging financial times, they must ensure the four regions have extra backing to be competitive.

The Dragons, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Scarlets know they must do their bit to provide vibrant and professional environments to keep Test players happy, with Llanelli currently showing the way.

Those who only care about international rugby will bemoan the likely absence of Webb but it is a more clear-cut policy that can aid the regions. The selection policy might not be perfect but it is a positive move.