BERNARD Jackman believes the Dragons will reap the rewards of giving their teenage talent a small taste of what it takes to be a professional this season.

The new head coach has so far given Guinness PRO14 debuts to flankers Max Williams (19) and Lennon Greggains (18), scrum-half Owain Leonard (19) and wings Jared Rosser (19) and George Gasson (20).

Full-back Will Talbot-Davies (20), hooker Ellis Shipp (20) have also featured after brief appearances last season while flanker Aaron Wainwright (20) was an unused replacement against Southern Kings.

Their presence in matchday squads is down to a combination of an already small roster of seniors being stretched by injury and a new boss wanting to plot for the future in a transitional first campaign.

“We have a small squad,” said Jackman, who is poised for a busy recruitment drive for next season. “I like giving youngsters who have talent an opportunity, particularly this year.

“If we develop them quickly this year then they will be useful additions for us next year.

“An injury is an opportunity for someone else and the way that our squad is set up, it’s tapping into the transition players to give them a go.

“I thought against the Kings our senior players gave the youngsters a bit of a better environment than we did at Ulster, when we still had a lot of experience.

“I know that we made a lot of changes [in Belfast] but we still had over 400 first class games in our pack and didn’t make it comfortable for the likes of Lennon Greggains.

“We need to make sure we look after our youngsters well and give them the right support; it’s hard enough when you play your first game and you just want to look to do your own job, not someone else’s.”

The prospects have been given a baptism of fire in the PRO14 rather than being exposed to senior rugby in the Anglo-Welsh Cup development competition or in the British and Irish Cup.

Jackman is aware of the need to balance giving them on-field opportunities with gaining rapid development at the Dragons’ Ystrad Mynach training base.

“[England head coach] Eddie Jones spoke about giving youngsters game time and that they are like a flower, how much sun and how much water,” he said.

“I believe in the value of giving them a game and letting them judge where they are at and then making an individual plan for them.

“Lennon is on a programme where we are going to try and put a little bit of mass onto him and a little bit of power.

“He is only 18 but I’ve noticed the difference between a Welsh kid at 18 and an Irish kid or South African kid at 18.

“The training age is lower so we have to be creative with how we programme their weeks, months and next block.

“Some of our youngsters are on a more athletic development plan for the next five or six weeks and then we will see where they are at in terms of whether they get more game time – have they improved much and what do they need to work on?”