CENTRE Jack Dixon is confident that the Dragons are growing nicely ahead of their crucial Guinness PRO14 opener against Benetton that can “kick-start” their season.

The Rodney Parade region play their final tune-up on Thursday when they make the short trip to Kingsholm to face Gloucester.

The Dragons head to the west country on the back of a disappointing 42-10 loss to Northampton in Newport when they threw away a 10-lead after a pair of interception tries and then failed to deal with the Saints’ well-drilled driving lineout.

Nonetheless, Dixon believes Bernard Jackman’s side are in good shape for a vital first block of the PRO14 that sees them host Benetton, the Southern Kings, Zebre and Cardiff Blues and travel to Leinster and Glasgow.

“We are not stressing too much,” he said after the Saints loss. “Week on week we are getting stronger, growing and everything has been falling into place quite nicely.

“We are going to Gloucester for our last pre-season game and it’s another chance to get match-fit for the Treviso game, which is a massive one for us.

“We are targeting that one and all thoughts are on it. We have spoken about the first four or five games and if we win that first one then it can really kick-start our season. Things are coming along nicely.”

The 23-year-old from Newbridge was named as captain for the 31-17 win at Ealing Trailfinders and led the side out again versus Northampton.

Dixon is seven games shy of his century for the Dragons after making his debut aged 16 at Wasps in 2011 and after a summer of change at Rodney Parade, is happy to be given a leadership role.

“I think I have stepped into it quite well and was captain for the first two games, which was a bit of a shock,” said Dixon, who missed the end of last season after snapping elbow ligaments.

“I have enjoyed it and the boys are stepping up with a lot, like Elliot and Cory, who are internationals and take the reins a lot.

“I just try to concentrate on myself first, then if anyone else wants a helping hand then I am there but everyone has fitted in really well and we are gelling as a team as the weeks go on.

“It’s been a bit different this year with new faces and coaches, it’s been a bit of a fresh start and there has been a lot of rugby rather than fitness. Everyone has enjoyed it and settled pretty quickly.”

Dixon is set to feature prominently at Kingsholm on Thursday while Jackman has pledged to pick a strong side in the countdown to Benetton.

Wales internationals lock Hill, hooker Dee, tighthead Leon Brown and full-back Hallam Amos are expected to feature in some form for the first time this summer.

Gloucester won at Ulster on Saturday and are hoping to have Danny Cipriani involved.

The England fly-half sat out the game in Belfast after he was fined £2,000 by a Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to charges of common assault and resisting arrest following an incident that took place on his club’s pre-season tour to Jersey.

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