DEAN Ryan has challenged his Dragons to bare their teeth against Worcester in a game that has "real bite" because knockout European rugby is on the line.

Tonight's fixture at Rodney Parade (kick-off 8pm) will go a long way towards determining the region's fate in Pool One of the Challenge Cup.

Win and the Dragons will be a strong position to make the last eight, either as group winner or one of three best runners-up.

Lose and the Dragons will be on the brink and in need of victory against Castres at the Stade Pierre Fabre, where the 2018 French champions haven't lost a European tie since December 2015.

Exeter, Munster, Gloucester, Leicester, Racing 92, Leinster, Northampton, Montpellier, Pau have all failed to leave Castres with the spoils, but Ryan's men may not need to upset the odds in south France if they produce the goods this evening.

Last Saturday they battled for a consolation bonus point in Worcester despite Taine Basham's 20th-minute red card to ensure they top Pool One at the halfway stage, a point ahead of Worcester and three clear of Castres.

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"We had to do 60 minutes with 14 men and when you come off there are mixed emotions because there were some decisions in that game, outside of the red card, which we were unhappy with," said director of rugby Ryan.

"You have that emotion that you didn't win but we did a tremendous job to get a bonus point because Europe isn't necessarily about winning on the night, it's about winning the right pool games at the right time.

"We know now that we've got to win at Rodney Parade and what a great game to be involved in. We've put ourselves in a good position.

"What a great opportunity to get something going at Rodney Parade. If we get through this we have Enisei-STM and Castres, so it's not done but we've put ourselves in a really strong position.

"I am pleased for the boys because they've got a game that has some real bite to it. We played Worcester six days ago so let's see what turns up.

"Our challenge is to be as good as we were last week every week, we are not going to leap from that to fantastic but we can do what we did last week again.

"And if we do that in the (festive) derbies then we are in the mix, causing problems for people and getting better as a side."

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Tonight is arguably the biggest game of Ryan's reign at Rodney Parade and the former Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester boss is excited by the double-header.

The ex-England forward has challenged his side to make last week's bonus point a vital one by turning the tables on the Warriors.

"Generally everything rides on the third and fourth rounds," he said. "You know that you are out if you don't get it right then, so this is what Europe is about.

"It's different to the PRO14, it's not week to week and it's not cup rugby either until the quarter-finals. It's pool rugby and taking it in bouts of two weeks and linking, that's why bonus points are important.

"I've got horrible experiences of being really competitive in Champions Cup but missing out at Munster on a bonus point somewhere.

"That's what we were so good at last week, it wasn't a great result but just nailing a bonus point leaves us in the mix and could come into play if we get it right at home."