THE Dragons could play in the premier European tournament for the first time since 2011 as part of a 24-team Champions Cup.

European Professional Club Rugby are mulling over options for the 2020/21 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They are contemplating – for one year only – a bigger premier competition of 24 clubs rather than 20.

"Ongoing discussions with EPCR's league and union shareholders regarding new formats have included the possibility of a 24-club Heineken Champions Cup with eight representatives from each of Europe's leading league competitions, played over eight weekends," said a statement.

"If adopted, any new format would apply to next season's tournament only on an exceptional basis."

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If eight teams from the PRO14 qualify for the Champions Cup then the Dragons, quarter-finalists in this season's Challenge Cup, would be in position to take the last spot

They currently sit fifth in Conference A but the fourth-placed Cheetahs, from South Africa, are not eligible for Europe.

The Dragons are eight points ahead of Zebre and nine clear of the Ospreys, who both have games in hand.

As things stand, the Rodney Parade region would have been travelling to Galway to face Connacht, fourth in Conference B, in a play-off for the final spot.

However, an extra team would lead to the Dragons making the Champions Cup for the first time in nine years. That is despite Cardiff Blues, who are fifth in Conference B, having more points than them.

Whether director of rugby Dean Ryan, who has made no secret of the size of his rebuilding task, would welcome mixing it with Europe's big guns is another matter.

The Ospreys were Wales' sole representatives in the Champions Cup this season and endured a whitewash after being grouped with Saracens, Munster and Racing 92.

The Dragons have played in the Challenge Cup for the last nine seasons since suffering the same fate as the men from the Liberty Stadium in 2010/11. Paul Turner's side were doubled by Toulouse, Glasgow and Wasps.

The region were given a taste of life in the top tier last season after being drawn against Clermont Auvergne and Northampton, two traditional Euro big guns, in the Challenge Cup. The Dragons suffered four heavy defeats and shipped 26 tries.

However, the chance to welcome Europe's elite to Rodney Parade would provide a much-needed boost to the coffers as all of rugby feels the pinch because of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Dragons could still get the chance to take on Bristol in the last eight of the Challenge Cup.

The clash at Ashton Gate was postponed because of the pandemic but European rugby bosses want to complete the 2019/20 tournaments with the aim of staging finals in Marseille on October 16 and 17.

"EPCR remains committed to making every effort to conclude the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season subject to official advice and with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community in mind," read their statement.

"It is hoped that the 2020 finals could be staged on 16 and 17 October."

The Dragons have won all three of their previous Challenge Cup quarter-finals – against Brive in 2007 and Cardiff Blues in 2015 in Newport and at Gloucester in 2016.

Bristol would be hot favourites for the last-eight tie, especially as their summer recruitment drive will mean that Fijian superstar Semi Radradra, Lions prop Kyle Sinckler and Saracens duo Ben Earl and Max Malins are on the books next time they play.

The Dragons will also have a different look with Wales internationals Cory Hill and Tyler Morgan on the way out while Nick Tompkins and Jonah Holmes are on the way in, potentially with ex-Australia back Joe Tomane and some tight five additions.