NEWPORT Gwent Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones says Friday's clash with Northampton will provide an early indication of whether they have the required grunt up front this season.
The region welcome the Aviva Premiership champions to Eugene Cross Park in Ebbw Vale (kick-off 7.30pm) for what promises to be a bruising encounter.
The Saints are notoriously strong at the set piece and are sure to give a new-look Dragons tight five a rigorous examination with their formidable scrum and driving lineout.
Jones has bolstered his pack this summer by signing props Boris Stankovich, Brok Harris, Lloyd Fairbrother and David Young, hooker Rhys Buckley and locks Rynard Landman and Ian Gough.
The Dragons have been shunted backwards at the set piece for a number of seasons but if the money has been spent wisely then their talented backs will finally have quality ball to play with in the coming campaign.
"If we are going to make a mark and compete in all competitions this year then we have to be able to deal with the power game," said Jones.
"We've been working hard in training and have recruited well with the aim of delivering that platform.
"Friday is an opportunity to see where we stand against a really good, well-organised team.
"English clubs have squads that are a lot deeper in talent and have a lot more numbers than we do in Wales, so Northampton will present a big challenge whoever they pick.
"It's going to be a really good game and a good test for us."
The game will also see Wales and Lions number eight Taulupe Faletau making his first appearance of pre-season.
The 23-year-old joined up the squad late after his summer exertions in South Africa but will start at Eugene Cross Park where his dad, former Tonga lock Kuli, used to ply his trade with the Steelmen.
"I look forward to seeing Toby playing where he used to live," said Jones. "He will be starting and it's important for him to have a run after having a good rest.
"I will be announcing a strong squad of 30 players but I will only be making substitutions if they are needed."