Tough times were invaluable for Dragons young guns - Wilson
NO PAIN, no gain is an adage that Newport Gwent Dragons will hope rings true after a troubled 2011/12 campaign.
And former forwards coach Danny Wilson is hopeful that his former charges will reap the rewards from a host of young pack members being thrown in at the deep end last term.
Earlier this month Wilson brought an end to his two-year tenure at Rodney Parade.
He will take up a role with the Scarlets when he finishes his duties as Wales Under-20s head coach in the Junior World Championships next month.
The 35-year-old looks back with pride at his spell at Rodney Parade but admits that last season was a challenging one.
The retirements of tightheads Nigel Hall and Ben Castle and hookers Lloyd Burns and Tom Willis combined with a chronic injury list in the second row put great strain on the tight five.
Wilson believes the efforts of an inexperienced set of forwards – props Nathan Buck, Dan Way and Nathan Williams, hooker Sam Parry, lock/back row Jevon Groves and flanker Darren Waters played their first full seasons of regional rugby – will stand them in good stead.
“They had to go through a lot of pain and often had to learn the hard way,” said Wilson. “It wasn't easy but the great thing is that these guys came through.
“It's testament to their work rate and determination that those young forwards grew and put in some terrific performances.
“There were a number of good experienced pros that we just couldn't get on the pitch enough but the flip side of that was that young players were developed.
“They were thrown in at the deep end and worked so hard in both training and in the game.
“That work rate needs to continue but they will have learnt so much from those on-field experiences, so much more than from training.”
Of course the set piece remains an area of concern for the Dragons, a fact hammered home by a late-season pummeling at the hands of an Adam Jones-inspired Ospreys.
But Wilson is in no doubt that the region is on the right path.
“There was a definite improvement in both the lineout and the scrum – the stats back that up," he said.
“That improvement was down to really focusing on the set piece and I am sure that will continue next season.
“There is still a long way to go but over the last few seasons real strides have been made and not only that, they have been made with young Welsh players.
“The likes of Sam Parry, Nathan Buck, Nathan Williams, Jevon Groves, Andrew Coombs all took their chances.
“A lot of inexperienced guys have been thrown in at the deep end but have developed because of their hard work and determination.”
Now Wilson will be plotting the downfall of those players instead of helping them progress after swapping one region for another with a reputation for a shaky set piece.
“I am thankful to the Dragons, and especially Paul Turner and Rob Beale, for giving me an opportunity," he said. "There are some great people there working really hard both on and off the field. "But I am excited to have a new challenge and I look forward to getting my teeth into the job at the Scarlets when I come back from the Junior World Championships.”