DARREN Waters is being tipped to have a big future at the Newport Gwent Dragons by one of the best openside flankers in the business – Wales rugby legend Martyn Williams.
Waters, 26, has excelled in his first season of regional rugby since signing from Premiership side Pontypridd last summer with a series of outstanding performances.
Williams, 36, who will win his 100th cap against the Barbarians next month, rates the abrasive up-and-coming seven highly.
The two went head to head in the Dragons’ 18-14 victory over Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade in March, Waters named the PRO12 man of the match that day.
He asked to exchange shirts after the game with a player he holds in such high regard and it was a touching moment for Williams to do so with a former fellow Sardis Road favourite.
"It was a nice touch when he asked me to swap jerseys with him," Williams said.
"It was quite humbling for me for another player to do that.
"Darren was outstanding that night – he was brilliant and he’s so tough to play against."
Waters made 13 appearances for the Dragons in his first season and is making a name for himself as a classic modern destructive openside who is a nightmare for the opposition at the breakdown with a phenomenal work rate.
To have impressed a player as great as Williams, Waters must be doing something right.
"Darren’s made the step up to regional level this year and he’s a class player," 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam winner Williams said.
"He’s as hard as nails and really good over the ball.
"Darren’s played really, really well during the season and he’s got a big, big future and he’s one to watch. Hopefully he can push on next season."
Williams, a Lion in 2001, 2005 and 2009, thinks that Waters will continue to progress after coming into professional rugby at a relatively senior age.
"Some players are like that – Lee Byrne is a classic example," he said. "Byrnie was 25, 26 when he got his first cap for Wales. A lot of the time, you just need a lucky break.
"One good game and you can kick on from there. He did the groundwork at Ponty for a number of years and was very highly thought of there.
"The Dragons have picked him up and I think if he can get a run of games under his belt next season then he can show again what a quality player he is."