NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have released scrum-half Joe Bedford and are poised to give a chance to Rhys Downes.

Newport’s Downes trained with the Dragons last summer and is set to act as cover for the first choice pair of Wayne and Jonathan Evans.

Bedwas’ Liam Davies, who has the Scarlets, Ospreys and Brive on his rugby CV, has played seven times for the region this season but the Dragons are keen to have a close look at Downes and will turn to him as their third scrum-half.

The 22-year-old signed for the Black and Ambers last summer from Pontypridd and looks set to get a chance to add to the nine regional appearances he made for Cardiff Blues.

That is because the Dragons granted Bedford an early release from his contract so that he could return to his native Yorkshire.

He has signed for Doncaster, who are propping up the English Championship, where he will link up with former Wales assistant coach Clive Griffiths, ex-Dragons Rhys Buckley and Royce Cadman and former Pontypool lock Sam Pailor.

The 28-year-old scrum-half did not feature at Rodney Parade this season after having a shoulder operation in the summer.

Bedford, who battled Dragons head coach Darren Edwards for the number nine jersey when with Leeds, made 21 appearances for the region last term and captained the side in the LV= Cup.

“We wish Joe all the best and thank him for his efforts for the region,” said director of rugby Robert Beale.

“We will keep an eye on the scrum-halves at all of our Premiership clubs and if we need to cover it will be from there.”

Head coach Edwards paid tribute to Bedford for helping in the development of Wales Under-20s scrum-half Jonathan Evans, who has made 15 appearances in a bright first half of the season.

“Joe did a solid job for us last season and made plenty of appearances, but was also given the task of acting as a mentor for Jon,” he said. “I am pleased that Jon is now featuring in a major way for us and I am sure that he has plenty of good things to say about Joe and the way that he has helped in his development.”