Forwards coach Ceri Jones knows Dragons face the ‘acid test’ of how they have developed over the summer when they face Munster in the Guinness PRO14 opener on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
Dragons – under new Director of Dragons Rugby, Dean Ryan – face a stern test in Limerick against a Munster side who made the semi-finals last season and have not lost at Thomond Park since facing Leinster on Boxing Day 2017.
However, Jones admits the excitement is building in camp as Dragons look to transfer work on the training field into match day.
"You can definitely feel it within the camp. The boys are excited, it has been one of the longest pre-seasons I can remember and we have made some good strides over the summer," said Jones.
"The boys are confident and looking forward to the start of the season. Munster is a great challenge, they don't get much bigger. "We are going over there after putting some systems in place over the summer and we want to test them out.
"We know that we are growing as a region and feel we are making strides, but you don't know until the acid test of the PRO14.
"It will be really interesting for us as coaches and for the players to see what we've worked on over the summer in a proper match. It's going to be a long season and we want to develop."
Jones is also looking forward to seeing his forwards go against a powerful Munster pack.
“They have a South African coach and that tells you two things – they are going to be set-piece orientated and they will be direct," he said.
"I think that we are in a decent enough place. It's a big challenge on the weekend but we are pretty fortunate in the front row with only Elliot Dee missing.
"It's nice to have Leon Brown back and getting him back into the frame of things, it's important that he plays while Lloyd Fairbrother has made massive strides over the last few years.
"Richard Hibbard is vastly experienced and then there is Ryan Bevington and Brok Harris, so we are fortunate in our front six that there is experience.
"It's down to us to put it all on the field – it can all look pretty in pre-season and when you are running against each other in Ystrad Mynach but the real test is how we look against a very strong Munster team."
We know that we are growing as a region and feel we are making strides, but you don't know until the acid test of the PRO14...