FORMER Dragons hooker Rhys Buckley has signed for Bargoed in a statement of intent by the Bulls for the return of relegation in the Principality Premiership.

The 28-year-old from Caldicot has left Rodney Parade after being limited to four appearances in 2017/18.

Buckley earned a Dragons contract in in 2011 thanks to his exploits with Pontypool and went on to play 16 times that season.

The front rower then played for Moseley and Doncaster in the English Championship before returning to Rodney Parade in 2014.

He enjoyed a strong 2016/17, making 26 appearances and impressing with his work in the tight, but suffered a neck injury in the early stages of last season that denied him the chance to impress new head coach Bernard Jackman.

Buckley, who was an unused replacement for Cardiff Blues at Zebre after they suffered a glut of injuries in February, made 72 outings for the region and Bargoed will hope to use that professional experience.

The Bulls have had a productive recruitment drive with 11 other confirmed new faces, a number of whom are returning to the club, as they bolster their squad in a bid to avoid the relegation dogfight.

They have turned to Gwent rivals to strengthen their side by snapping up loosehead John Lavender from Newport, lock/back row Geraint Edmunds from Bedwas and Cross Keys fly-half Josh Prosser and centre Barney Nightingale.

Nightingale, who made his regional debut at Connacht as a 17-year-old in 2014, is joined in heading to Bargoed Park by fellow Dragons academy products Keegan Bale and Bryce Morgan, a loosehead and lock respectively.

Back rowers Callum Davies and Ashley Gibson, front row forwards Wade Langley and Corey Gardner and wing Matt Billett have also signed.

Bargoed will finish in the bottom three this season, a fate that they will need to avoid to beat the drop next year.

The Bulls earned promotion to the Premiership thanks to an excellent 2015/16 campaign and finished one from bottom in their first year in the top flight.