THE Dragons will make the daunting trip to Northampton in the European Challenge Cup without their Wales contingent after deciding to rest their big guns ahead of the festive derbies.

The Rodney Parade region need to upset the odds at Franklin’s Gardens if they are to qualify from Pool One but will head over the border without a number of star players.

Lock Cory Hill, back row forwards Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright, hooker Elliot Dee, tighthead Leon Brown and centre Tyler Morgan featured for Wales in the autumn internationals.

They all played for the Dragons in Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 hammering at the hands of Leinster before being given a week of recovery, although Brown suffered a broken thumb just 10 minutes after coming off the bench.

The region face a daunting schedule that pits them against the Saints and Clermont Auvergne in Europe before festive derbies against Cardiff Blues in the capital, the Ospreys in Newport and the Scarlets in Llanelli.

The Dragons are prioritising the Guinness PRO14 – and ending their four-year derby drought – at the expense of the Challenge Cup.

“It’s part of the programme that none of the Welsh boys will be playing at the weekend, they are due time off,” said backs coach Barry Maddocks.

“We have to allocate the time off for them, that’s part of the agreement (with the Welsh Rugby Union), so what is important if factoring in the games.

“We need to make sure we have everybody available for the PRO14 games, that’s the priority and that’s when we want them.

“They have just come back from international duty and you can’t keep them going again for another block. We have to look after them.”

Wing/full-back Hallam Amos, who did not feature in the November Tests because of an elbow injury, will be available for Northampton while the likes of flanker Nic Cudd and lock Brandon Nansen, who missed out against Leinster after playing in the win against Edinburgh, will come back into the mix.

“There are boys coming back in and have opportunities,” said Maddocks. “This will be a chance to come in and put their hand up.

“They did exceptionally well against Edinburgh and we’ve got confidence in them to step into the roles. They get another go.”

The loss of Brown, joining Brok Harris on the sidelines until January, leaves the Dragons short on props with Ryan Bevington and Lloyd Fairbrother likely to start at loosehead and tighthead respectively with Aaron Jarvis acting as primary cover for both of them on the bench.

The other options for replacement roles are looseheads Gerard Ellis and Josh Reynolds and tighthead Chris Coleman and Nicky Thomas, who is back with the Dragons after a spell with Bristol.