CAPTAIN Lee Byrne believes Newport Gwent Dragons have been handed the perfect start to their European Rugby Challenge Cup campaign with a Saturday night challenge in Paris, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Rodney Parade region take on Stade Francais at the Stade Jean Bouin on Saturday, October 18 (kick-off 7.45pm) before hosting Newcastle Falcons the following Friday (kick-off 7.30pm).
Full-back Byrne, 34, was yellow-carded when he was playing for a Clermont Auvergne side that were beaten 23-16 by Stade in Paris last September.
And he is relishing the prospect of leading his new teammates out in their most glamourous Pool Three encounter.
"It will be a great challenge," said the 46-times capped full-back. "It was tough when I went there with Clermont last season.
"They've got some great players and are led by (Italy icon) Sergio Parisse but it will be a great experience for the boys.
"A Saturday night kick-off in Paris, the atmosphere will be electric and the boys will remember that game for a long time I can tell you."
The Dragons will hope that their qualification hopes are still alive when they play a December double-header against either Calvisano or Bucharest, who clash for a place in Pool Three in September.
They travel to Kingston Park – complete with its new artificial pitch – in January before finishing against the French giants at Rodney Parade.
The five group winners plus three best runners-up will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Round one: Stade Francais (away) – Saturday, October 18 (7.45pm)
Round two: Newcastle (home) – Friday, October 24 (7.30pm)
Round three: Calvisano/Bucharest (away) – December 4/5/6/7
Round four: Calvisano/Bucharest (home) –December 11/12/13/14
Round five: Newcastle (away) – January 15/16/17/18
Round six: Stade Francais (home) – January 22/23/24/25
- Former Newport Gwent Dragons full-back Martyn Thomas is on trial at London Irish.
The 27-year-old, who made 83 appearances and scored 14 tries for the Rodney Parade region between 2007 and 2012, featured for the Exiles against Montpellier last week.
The elusive runner is without a club after spending the last two seasons with Gloucester.