THE need to grasp an opportunity in the absence of Test stars is not foreign to Nic Cudd as the Dragons flanker prepares for a start against Timisoara Saracens.

The tenacious openside is set to wear 7 on his back against the Romanian minnows in the European Challenge Cup tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.30pm) while Aaron Wainwright, one of the stars of the festive derbies, is given a breather.

Wainwright's form means that it's highly likely he will be named in Warren Gatland's squad for the Six Nations next week along with fellow back row forward Ross Moriarty and lock Cory Hill, who has recently been captaining the Dragons from blindside flanker.

With bright prospects Ollie Griffiths and Harrison Keddie also in the Dragons' squad, competition is fierce in the back row.

'Twas ever thus for Cudd, who has been a mainstay of the side since heading east from Llanelli in 2012.

The 30-year-old has racked up 128 appearances for the Rodney Parade region, a tally that puts him third on the list of back rowers with just Lewis Evans (222) and Jamie Ringer (140) above him.

Cudd has played alongside Evans, Lions duo Taulupe Faletau and Dan Lydiate, Wales international Andrew Coombs, quality imports Ed Jackson, Nick Crosswell and Netani Talei and a glut of young talent.

The openside has always been under pressure for his spot but passing 20 appearances in every full campaign – he missed all of 2017/18 because of ruptured knee ligaments – shows that he usually rises to the occasion.

"It's been tough trying to get game time and there is very good competition in the back row," said Cudd, who has played nine times this season but last got on the field against Northampton on December 8.

"For me and others Timisoara is an opportunity to play well and put our hands up for the next few games.

"Maybe there is not too much to play for in Europe anymore but for players individually it's a chance to impress. That's a big incentive for a lot of us."

Wainwright, who is comfortable across the back row, is likely to come back into the XV for the clash with French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne next Friday but will then be unavailable for caretaker boss Ceri Jones because of Test duty.

The Wales contingent will miss the PRO14 fixtures with Munster, Edinburgh, Benetton and Ulster, giving Cudd a better shot at 7.

"Aaron is an impressive rugby player and a great athlete. He has been going from strength to strength," he said.

"I assume he will be in the Six Nations squad because he has been playing really well and in a way that frees up another space for another person in the back row.

"But even if Aaron is away there is still a lot of competition with some good youngsters coming through. If I play tomorrow then it's about me doing my best and put my hand up for selection."

Cudd is known for his defensive tenacity and breakdown prowess but the Dragons will hope the flanker will be predominantly on attacking duties tomorrow.

The Saracens have shipped 29 tries in three games in Pool One, including eight when the region triumphed in Romania in October.

"We are not going to underestimate Timisoara, out there they had a good start to the game so we are going to have to be better than that," said Cudd, who played the full 80 minutes at Dan Paltinisanu Stadium.

"Hopefully we can show what we can do with ball in hand and be more clinical and we will have a bit more possession than recent games.

"But it's not going to be easy and they will come at us, especially at the start. We will have to be on our game and put some pressure on them.

"They have some big lumps in the forwards with a few sharp backs. They have a mixture of Romanians with foreign players and we have to be on our game, especially at the start.

"Hopefully we can wear them down and then kick on. We have three home games on the bounce and can build some momentum for Clermont and Munster."