HOOKER Richard Hibbard says the Dragons players can have no excuses if they fail to improve under Dean Ryan on a "very difficult" season.

The former Wales and Lions front rower headed to Rodney Parade from Gloucester last summer as part of a big recruitment drive that led to high hopes.

However, the Dragons endured another tough campaign that resulted in the sacking of head coach Bernard Jackman in December.

Under caretaker boss Ceri Jones they did end a four-year derby drought against the Ospreys and finished with a flourish against the Scarlets at Judgement Day, but they managed just five Guinness PRO14 wins and narrowly avoided propping up Conference B.

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The Dragons returned for pre-season training yesterday to begin the Ryan era after the Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester boss was appointed as director of rugby.

Hibbard insists the squad have everything at their disposal to improve on their 2018/19.

"It's been very difficult, I'm not going to shy away from it," said the 35-year-old, who made 23 appearances and deputised as captain for Cory Hill.

"We haven't got the results we wanted on the pitch and you've had things going on off the pitch, but (chairman) David Buttress' heart is in the right place and he's good for us.

"He's obviously appointed Dean Ryan now, which is another good appointment for us. All the building blocks and the foundations are there now.

"Ultimately, it's down to us as players to go out there and perform. Now we have no excuses, we've got good facilities, world class coaching, it's very important we go out and perform now.

"Some games last year we were always there for 60 minutes but we couldn't finish it off until Judgement Day when we finally put an 80-minute performance in."

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The Dragons returned to pre-season training five weeks after their Principality Stadium win against the Scarlets.

They face a long summer as the Guinness PRO14 starts at the end of September because of the World Cup in Japan, with Celtic Cup fixtures filling the void.

The PRO14 conferences are being changed for the next two seasons, which will determine whether Judgement Day is considered a home or away fixture for the Dragons.

The new agreement over the regional double-header will ensure that all four regions get 10 of their 21 regular season games on home soil.