FLANKER Nic Cudd believes he is proving his doubters wrong after penning a new deal with Newport Gwent Dragons.
The 24-year-old openside arrived at Rodney Parade from Llanelli in September on a one-season contract because of a back row injury crisis.
With his high tackle rate and breakdown prowess, the West Walian has proved to be a success story in a campaign of disappointments.
And Cudd, who will make his 18th appearance of the campaign against Leinster on Friday, has been rewarded with a new Dragons deal.
“I was given an opportunity to prove myself as a professional and hopefully I have done that,” said Cudd, who came up through the Scarlets academy.
“We haven’t had the best of results this season but I think it is going well for me on a personal front, I have had plenty of games and feel that I am improving as a player.
“I’ve just tried to do everything that is expected of a seven – make tackles, turn ball over, be a link between forwards and backs and just be a bit of a nuisance to the opposition.”
Cudd, 5ft 10in, is a throwback in an era of imposing back row forwards that can wear 6, 7 or 8 on their back.
An out-and-out openside, he has stuck two fingers up at those that said he lacked the bulk to cut it in regional rugby by producing big performances against imposing packs.
“You are always going to get people that say you are too small but all I can do is play and prove them wrong,” said Cudd, who lists fellow pint-sized warriors George Smith and Neil Back as his openside idols.
“I think I am doing that at the moment and over the past few months I have improved in terms of physicality and carrying the ball.
“That’s down to playing games regularly and hopefully I can keep that going and continue to get better.”
Cudd will be to the fore against European champions Leinster on Friday.
The Irishmen have won their last seven games and are showing signs of getting back to their best in time for the Pro12 run-in and knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Leinster will be without a sizeable Irish contingent but showed their strength when brushing aside the Scarlets 32-5 at the Royal Dublin Society last Saturday.
“Leinster have got some dangerous backs and the forwards are a good unit that makes hard yards and sneak around the rucks,” said Cudd.
“We have to be on the ball defensively and match them physically – we can’t back down.
“We are still a bit raw from Glasgow (when the Warriors won 60-3 at Rodney Parade) and that is a good thing.
“We reacted well with a good win in awful conditions against Zebre and we need to improve again for Leinster, because they are a great team and we need to step up to the mark.”