Formerly Newport Gwent Dragons, the region made a big name change, to simply the Dragons, a symbolic gesture of the changes at hand and those changes are now visible for all to see on match day. Since the WRU invested in the east Wales region, the Dragons have made some blockbuster signings, as well as some more subtle but equally crucial acquisitions.
One of the Dragons’ biggest problems in the past was a lack of strength in depth, and consistency, losing a few players to international duty previously dulled the blade for the plucky region. Now, if rumours and speculation are to be believed, the Dragons suddenly have some fantastic cover in key positions and some experienced, grizzled veterans to mentor the up and coming youth.
Elliot Dee, the promising young international, will have the guile and war stories of fan favourite Richard Hibbard to draw upon. Former Wales U20 international, Liam Belcher, who no doubt has a bright future ahead of him, will also benefit from the pair’s position. With the likes of Ryan Bevington and Leon Brown propping on either side, it’s a front row that has oodles of potential and robust enough to challenge any front row in the Pro14.
With Cory Hill impressing over the autumn with Wales and Landman, the definition of a workhorse, Joseph Davies and Matthew Screech will gain valuable experience from the dynamic duo.
However, it’s the back row and beyond that has truly made people sit up and take notice. With Ross Moriarty joining from Gloucester also, and Ollie Griffiths coming into his own, the Newport based region has a back row that’s as potent as it was before the departure of Faletau. Nic Cudd is a phenomenal jackalling openside in his own right, but the former Wales U20 openside has evolved into a true leader and no doubt a competitor for the number 7 shirt in the Welsh camp in future. Another former age grade international in the back row is Harrison Keddie, who promises to be a real handful as he continues to develop with the region. Now, with the addition of the gritty British and Irish Lion Ross Moriarty, there’s an edge to the loose forwards that fellow Pro12 sides will have to be wary of when facing the Dragons.
A signing that I believe will prove to be a fantastic one is the addition of Rhodri Williams to the scrum-half collection. The Welsh international opted to leave the Scarlets two seasons ago due to the rise of Gareth Davies and Aled Davies, both now favourites in Gatland’s camp. However, Williams is still a phenomenal distributor and has lightning pace off the mark; his signing was eclipsed by that of Moriarty but mark my words, Williams could yet force his way into the Welsh set up with the eyes of the nation flickering east. Not to say that the former Scarlet won’t have any competition whilst at the region, with fellow Welshman and another former Scarlet, Tavis Knoyle, looking to play his way back into favour of the international coaches. The young Dan Babos more than held his own against Ulster a few weeks ago, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the 17-year-old. Sarel Pretorius is also there, offering his wisdom, experience and stability to the halfback contingency.
As sceptical as I am of the rumour that superstar Quade Cooper is on his way to Wales, there’s no shortage of talent at fly-half with the prodigal son Gavin Henson pulling the strings for the Dragons and Dorian Jones, Arwel Robson and Angus O’Brien all waiting eagerly in the wings.
There’s also a wealth of talent in the centres with Sam Beard and Adam Warren impressing whilst on the field, but its Tyler Morgan and Jack Dixon that have been really drawing attention to themselves in the Dragons’ jersey. Morgan was given a baptism by fire during the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final against South Africa aged just 20, and has suffered a number of injuries that have hampered his international progress. Dixon too has been hailed as a potential international, only a year older than Morgan.
In the back three, speedster Ashton Hewitt has been proving to be quite the handful for the opposition, reminiscent of Ireland’s Adam Byrne who’s been outstanding for both Leinster and his country. If the rumour that George North is heading to the Dragons bears true, it would complete a fantastic attacking back three with Hallam Amos and former Springbok Zane Kirchner both capable of playing fullback and wing. Even if North ends up playing in a different region’s colours, the signing of speedster Jordan Williams adds an injection of pure pace in the outside backs. Jared Rosser, who has impressed more and more with every appearance, could also be fighting for a starting spot by then too!
All in all, with Bernard Jackman at the helm, more signings yet to be announced, the backing of the WRU and an ever growing fan base… the Dragons could be a force to be reckoned with next season!