THE Dragons are preparing for a return to European rugby's premier competition but former captain Cory Hill will lead the charge for Cardiff Blues in the second tier.

The 28-year-old from Maesycoed returned to the Arms Park in the summer after seven seasons at Rodney Parade.

Hill will lead the charge for the Blues at Newcastle in the Challenge Cup tonight and will hope to enjoy a similar outing as the Dragons' stunning 40-29 success at Kingston Park in 2015, one of their finest European performances.

The lock has endured a frustrating autumn with Wales after being limited to three appearances, a start against France and then outings off the bench against Georgia and Italy.

Western Telegraph: 15.12.17 - Dragons v Newcastle Falcons - European Rugby Challenge Cup -.Cory Hill of Dragons spots a gap..15.12.17 - Dragons v Newcastle Falcons - European Rugby Challenge Cup -.Cory Hill of Dragons spots a gap..

Hill will be keen to prove a point ahead of the Six Nations in his tussle with Alun Wyn Jones, Dragons target Will Rowlands, Jake Ball and Blues teammate Seb Davies – with a return to face his old side in Newport on Boxing Day.

The Blues, Challenge Cup winners in 2010 and 2018, also field tighthead Dillon Lewis, lock Davies and flanker Shane Lewis-Hughes on their returns from Test duty with Rhys Carre and Lloyd Williams on the bench.

Ex-Dragon Hallam Amos, who scored a double on the Kingston Park plastic in 2015, starts at full-back.

Head coach John Mulvihill said: "It's great to welcome some of our Wales boys to the squad this weekend and they have brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to training this week.

"They not only bring further quality and experience to drive our standards but guys like Cory are also big leaders for us.

"We have done well in the Challenge Cup previously and the boys are looking forward to the challenge of taking on a Newcastle Falcons team flying high in the English Premiership.

"It's a very important time of year and we really want a big result up in Newcastle to roll into Stade Francais at home next weekend and then the Welsh derbies."

The Ospreys will be without Alun Wyn Jones for their opener against Castres at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

The lock limped off in the second half of Wales' Autumn Nations Cup win against Italy.