HEAD coach Kingsley Jones hopes Newport Gwent Dragons will reap the rewards of a more packed pre-season schedule, writes Chris Kirwan.
Last summer the Rodney Parade region's home encounter with Bath was their solitary warm-up fixture.
But this August they travel to take on Bristol at Clifton RFC tomorrow (kick-off 3pm) before a development XV takes on Lydney on next Sunday (kick-off 3pm) and Aviva Premiership champions Northampton visit Ebbw Vale's Eugene Cross Park on Friday, August 29 (kick-off 7.30pm).
The schedule should enable the whole squad to get a chance to impress ahead of the Guinness Pro12 opener against Connacht in Galway on Saturday, September 6.
"Some teams have five friendlies and there's no correct formula but I certainly don't think one, like we had last year, is perfect," said Jones.
"We look to have a good balance, starting with Bristol then a younger group goes to Lydney then Northampton will be closer (to the side that will go up against Connacht)."
Bristol, who are captained by former Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel, have opted for an eight-strong bench while the Dragons will give action to 27 players.
Jones has stressed that those that get first go are not in pole position for the Sportsground opener.
"This is the first game and everybody wants to play and everybody wants to be in the first starting line-up but they will all get opportunities," said Jones.
"This is a fantastic chance for us to see what we are improving on and what needs work.
"There will be lots of holes in our game with so many new players and because of all the changes we will make but it's a great exercise because training is nothing compared to what we will get at Bristol."
Ian Evans and Matthew Morgan are not included in the Bristol 23 after joining up with the squad late following their Wales exertions in South Africa while fellow new recruits Jack Lam, David Lemi and Anthony Perenise also sit out the pre-season opener. Ex-Wales Under-20s hooker Rhys Lawrence is among the replacements.
The Dragons will give all of the travelling squad game time against Bristol, meaning action for new recruits Byrne, Aled Brew, Boris Stankovich, Lloyd Fairbrother, Ian Gough, Rynard Landman, James Thomas and Andy Powell.
Pat Leach and Jack Dixon are the only specialist centres in the absence of injured trio Tyler Morgan, Ashley Smith and Ross Wardle, although wings Matthew Pewtner and Aled Brew have previously played in midfield.
Bristol: D Hudson, R Edwards, L Eves, M Cooke, C Amesbury, A Jarvis, D Peel (captain), J O'Connell, M Crumpton, J Hall, B Glynn, G Townson, M Mama, R Rennie, B Skirving. Replacements: R Lawrence, E Genge, J Joyce, O Robinson, C Hampson, L Baldwin, C Sheedy, L Slowik, A Slowik.
Dragons squad: L Byrne (captain), R Jones, A Hewitt, T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, A Brew, M Pewtner, J Tovey, A O'Brien, J Evans, R Rees; B Stankovich, O Evans, R Thomas, E Dee, L Fairbrother, D Way, M Screech, I Gough, R Landman, C Hill, A Coombs, J Thomas, N Cudd, L Evans, A Powell.