A BRUISING encounter with Paul O'Connell and Munster has prepared Newport Gwent Dragons perfectly for a crunch European encounter, according to lock Cory Hill
The region have no margin for error when they welcome Bordeaux-Begles to Rodney Parade in the Amlin Challenge Cup on Friday evening (kick-off 7.15pm).
Bath will strengthen their grip on Pool Two when they record a pair of bonus point wins against Italian minnows Mogliano.
That means that the Dragons have to do a December double over their French opponents to keep their destiny in their own hands.
Bordeaux, who sit 10th in the Top 14 after last weekend's win against Aled Brew's Biarritz, will head to Wales with an imposing pack.
But the same was the case last Friday when Munster fielded a quality front eight that was spearheaded by O'Connell and his fellow Ireland and Lions lock Donncha O'Callaghan.
"The French are always big and physical," said Hill. "It will be another arm wrestle but playing Munster and their Lions was just as big a challenge.
"The last couple of weeks have been hard up front, we had a great win in Glasgow and just fell short last weekend.
"We move on to the Amlin and look forward to Bordeaux. We know what to expect from French opposition, they love it in the tight five and we will get a few drives off them.
"You've got to muscle up, which we did quite well against an experienced Munster pack."
Hill was the odd one out in the 18-14 loss to the RaboDirect Pro12 leaders at Rodney Parade as the other three starting locks boasted a wealth of experience and a combined tally of 224 caps.
The 21-year-old formed an impressive second row partnership with evergreen lock Robert Sidoli, who represented Wales 42 times, and relished the chance to go up against O'Connell and O'Callaghan, who have totted up 88 and 94 Irish appearances respectively.
"They are two of the best around and have been for a long time," said Hill, a former Wales Under-20s captain.
"Paul O'Connell is a legend and someone that I've looked up to, it's always nice to play against the best and challenge yourself against them."
Hill has started all three games since signing from Moseley but will come under pressure for his place from captain Andrew Coombs, who is back from Wales duty.
Fellow impressive young gun Matthew Screech and former international Adam Jones are also battling for starts.
"I didn't sign here to make up the numbers, I came here to play," said Hill. "Getting the nod for Wasps (in the LV= Cup) was nice and it's gone from there.
"I've got my head down and worked hard. If I keep getting picked, I'll keep trying to impress."