CARETAKER boss Ceri Jones wants the top job at the Dragons on a permanent basis – and sees the next nine games as an audition.

The former Wales prop was appointed as interim head coach when the Rodney Parade region sacked Bernard Jackman at the start of December.

Jones' efforts have earned an extended stay in the hotseat after chairman David Buttress opted to leave him in charge until at least the end of the season.

The 41-year-old is now in charge of negotiations with players that are in the final year of their contracts and recruitment for next season – and wants to be Jackman's permanent successor.

"I will put my hat in the ring," said Jones. "It's something that I didn't see coming and I was quite happy to just do the forwards coach role.

"I have another year on my contract for that, so regardless of what happens I see my future within the region.

"I suppose that having the job until the end of the season it puts me a little bit more in control of my own destiny.

"It helps me shape the group and the future of the Dragons, so that's something that is key to me at the moment.

"I am from this place, it's my region. It's where I was born, it's where I was brought up, my father played for Newport, I played for Newport, I coached Ebbw Vale, it's where my family are all from. I want this region to succeed.

"There are only four Welsh regions, so to be given the opportunity to be a head coach of one is something that as a Welshman you can't turn down. Well, I certainly couldn't."

Jones led the Dragons to a first league derby win for four years when the Ospreys were downed in December and knows a strong finish to the PRO14 would do his chances of landing the top job the power of good.

"I am delighted to be given the opportunity until the end of the season. Hopefully we can keep the momentum that we have got from this run of games," said Jones ahead of tomorrow's home European Challenge Cup clash with Clermont Auvergne.

"We haven't had all the wins but there have been some good performances, we aim to build from them and keep it going.

"All I can do is the best possible job that I can on the field between now and the end of the season and try to put my best foot forward.

"I still see myself staying within the region even if I didn't get the job. As I have said from the moment this was given to me, my focus is and always has been about doing the best for the region, whether as forwards coach or if the board deem it to be as head coach."

Jones is also profiting from pearls of wisdom from the Welsh Rugby Union through mentor Kevin Bowring and head of rugby performance Geraint John.

"Kevin has been a huge help to me," said Jones. "He took me through my level four coaching, which I did through the RFU when he was the overall coaching mentor within that.

"I still have a lot of contact with Kevin, he has been in this week and that's something that will continue. I hold him in very high esteem and he is great help.

"I have got plenty of contacts and it is really helpful, also Geraint John is very useful and there is help there from the Union."