IN sport there is always the risk of slipping into hyperbole; every kick is crucial when all Sundays must be super.

This certainly isn’t a vital month for the Dragons but it’s an important one for a batch of players getting a chance while the spine of the first XV is absent.

Expectations are always low for trips to Munster and Leinster in the Guinness PRO14, anything is a bonus, while the pressure is off in Anglo-Welsh Cup encounters, but performances are being watched closely.

Not that it would have needed a forensic look at last Friday’s encounter in Cork to pass judgement.

It was up there with the worst of the Dragons horror shows that I have witnessed, not quite as bad at the 60-3 against Glasgow at Rodney Parade, the 47-22 versus Zebre or Euro implosions at Edinburgh and Sale but at least as bad, if not worse, than last year’s many defeats.

Yes, there was mitigation of a huge list of absentees but each and every one of those that took to the field is currently a professional player, and they will know it wasn’t a professional performance.

They won’t care about a journalist saying that because they will have been told it in no uncertain terms by their bosses.

It was a display that demands a response at Franklin’s Gardens this Saturday evening when most eyes will be on events at Principality Stadium.

Development competition, sure, but all these games matter if individuals want to be part of Year Two of the Bernard Jackman era.

Any player who is no longer in their teens or early 20s with fewer than four starts to their name is probably playing for their future.

In truth the judgement has already been made on everybody. Not a definitive verdict, but ticks and crosses have been made in pencil next to all names.

Players aren’t daft, calls will have been made to agents telling them to put the feelers out.

The key players Leon Brown and Elliot Dee have already signed fresh deals and other announcements will follow in time.

If there has been no contact from head coach Jackman, not even tentative talks, then the writing is on the wall.

There is always a last shot at salvation but there are those on the books that already know their days are numbered.

Those with another year left on contracts have some breathing room, or at least empowerment to be able to force a financial sweetener to be made.

But anyone who watches rugby on a regular basis knows that there are players on the roster who aren’t up to it at pro level.

Those individuals are more vastly more talented than I ever was, and will have been the best in their teams growing up through the years until they started mixing it with seniors.

However, they are in the hazy area between those of semi-professional and full-time standard. Arguably some don’t even make it that far.

It must be said that the past regime, so keen on cutting corners and saving pennies, didn’t exactly help in the search for self-improvement of coaches or players.

Perhaps there are individuals who could have made it with a bit more help and guidance but the Dragons can no longer afford to settle and just make do.

Jackman made that clear in the press room at Musgrave Park, no doubt wounded by such a poor display in front of his compatriots.

He said that there was some “dead wood” that needs to be removed while he has previously gone on record as saying there will be “casualties” when the rebuilding cranks up next summer.

The management already know what they want and they have been beavering to bring in fresh blood.

Pretty content with their XV, they are looking for more depth and more quality to ensure that there is no danger of complacency from those who have got used to wearing jerseys 1 to 15 this term.

That is not to say that they should steer clear of players that others don’t want – look at the success of Cory Hill, who was surplus to requirements at Cardiff Blues, while Nic Cudd and Adam Warren have been superb club men since heading east from Llanelli – but the squad cannot be clogged up.

The signing of scrum-half Rhodri Williams is an encouraging one, he is a classy operator, but if targets Ryan Bevington and Jordan Williams follow from Bristol then they will have more to prove.

Players of that quality would add something to the ranks and could be hits but is it any different to signings made when there was Newport and Gwent in the name?

Is Bevington any different to when Sam Hobbs (who had a strong first season) arrived from Cardiff Blues? Is Jordan Williams any different to when Tom Prydie arrived from the Ospreys?

They are solid enough players but while Rhodri Williams would make the Dragons XV now, the other Bristol targets are more about reducing the level of drop-off.

But if this is a new era then the majority of Jackman’s targeted 12 signings have to be of Rhodri Williams standard or higher.

There is no doubt that the environment at Ystrad Mynach is a now a better one to come into and that will drive some serious change.

The fresh blood will dictate how rapid the progress made in 2018/19 is, along with what the Dragons get rid of.

There are players with crosses next to their name in pencil at the moment but Jackman will be reaching for the pen shortly.