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.

Dragons' fixtures

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.