ARWEL Robson is set to pull the strings against Northampton in the absence of Jason Tovey as the Dragons attempt to respond to their home humiliation at the hands of Leinster.

Fly-half Tovey has started the last four fixtures in the Guinness PRO14 on permit from Cross Keys but is not eligible for the European Challenge Cup.

The 29-year-old, the leading points scorer in the Dragons' history, signed for his hometown club after being released by Edinburgh at the end of last season.

He made a return to professional rugby in November because of injuries to Gavin Henson (hamstring) and Robson (ankle), Josh Lewis’ struggles after his summer arrival from Bath and while Jacob Botica learns the ropes after his move from RGC 1404.

However, Tovey is not eligible for the Challenge Cup as the regulations state that additional players must have a three-month contract with the club to be registered.

The fly-half has not penned a long-term Dragons deal and room needs to be found in the budget to bring him into the squad permanently.

That means Tovey will return to Keys to boost their battle to beat the drop over the next fortnight in away trips to RGC 1404 and Bridgend. He will be back in the mix for the PRO14 festive derbies against Cardiff Blues, the Ospreys and Scarlets.

Robson will wear 10 on his back against the Saints after coming off the bench in Saturday’s humiliating 59-10 loss to Leinster at Rodney Parade.

The 21-year-old made 12 appearances last season but has been hindered by injuries in the opening months of the campaign.

Two summer operations to solve a long-standing ankle problem led to Lewis getting first crack before Robson suffered a different ankle injury at Glasgow in September.

He will now return to the XV at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 3pm) and a number of other senior players are pushing for places after the Leinster horror show.

Wales internationals Cory Hill, Elliot Dee and Ross Moriarty came off the bench against the champions – although they failed to halt the momentum as the Irishmen racked up nine tries – and a number of others were sent out for Premiership action.

Centre Jack Dixon, fly-half Lewis and wing Dafydd Howells played in Ebbw Vale’s win at Bargoed while tighthead Dan Suter played for the Bulls.

Hooker Rhys Lawrence and lock/blindside Huw Taylor made their Newport debuts as the Black and Ambers upset the odds in Merthyr while Botica, scrum-half Dan Babos and back row forwards James Sheekey and James Benjamin featured for Cross Keys in their win against Llandovery.

The Dragons management must mull over ringing the changes or offering a shot at redemption after the nightmare against Leinster.

“We are all very disappointed by that performance,” said forwards coach Ceri Jones. “We gave them some easy ins to the game and it wasn’t the ideal start.

“If you give a team like Leinster a sniff they can be ruthless. We need to go back to the drawing board and look at that performance because it wasn’t good enough.

“I wasn’t expecting the performance we put on the field. We gave them too much time, made too many basic errors and you can’t do that against a quality team.

“We’ve got a couple of tough weeks with Northampton and Clermont away from home in Europe but we have got to prepare right and take that into the next few weeks before we go into the Welsh derby games.”

The Saints are also demanding a reaction after a late home loss to Newcastle that added to their fears in an intriguing Premiership relegation scrap. Northampton are third from bottom, just two points above the Falcons.

The Dragons need to win at either Franklin’s Gardens or the Stade Marcel Michelin to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup after losing 35-21 to the English side in October.