Dragons boss Dean Ryan relishing Champions Cup chance

Dean Ryan
Dean Ryan has also coached Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester Warriors

Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan says he is relishing the "daunting" task of playing Champions Cup rugby next season.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is considering increasing the number of teams in the 2020-21 Champions Cup from 20 to 24.

That would increase the Pro14's representation in Europe's top-tier competition from seven to eight.

Dragons would claim the additional qualifying spot.

"Champions Cup is on the one hand really daunting but on the other really exciting," said Ryan.

"Every person who works in sport wants to be involved at the top and our players aren't any different.

"It doesn't mean our resources won't be challenged or that the match-ups won't be interesting, but we can't help but get excited.

"We're delighted to be there irrespective of what the challenge is. We're over the moon to play against some of the best sides in Europe.

"When you speak to a player at the Dragons about the Champions Cup their eyes light up. We'll speak about the scale of the challenge later.

"The Pro14 is incredibly difficult and you play against some of the best sides in Europe there. We've never been daunted by that and taken the approach of how we can enjoy it and get better.

"The Champions Cup will be exactly the same, albeit getting around some of the more top sides in Europe and seeing what that looks like."

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European qualification in the Pro14 will be based on finishing positions after round 13, which has already been finalised along with the unplayed games deemed draws following the league's suspension during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dragons are fifth in their league conference but will benefit from South African side Cheetahs' ineligibility for European competition.

The region have a 2019-20 European quarter-final to prepare for in September with the Challenge Cup match against Bristol in September, for which new loan signing Nick Tompkins should be eligible.

Before that is the planned conclusion of the Pro14 at the end of August with two derby fixtures and the Dragons return to training on Wednesday.

"We're very much following both WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) and government guidelines in terms of how we return to training," said Ryan.

"We're not back until Wednesday in a small group and it's small steps. There is an August 22 return to competition and things need to run smoothly to give us the best chance of doing that.

"That's dependent on wider issues. At the moment as a sport we're taking small steps and from Wednesday we're looking at how we can train in small groups from being isolated at home.

"It's a difficult period and there is an awful lot of organisation to do to keep people safe."