AFTER honing the dark arts in the scrum-loving south of France and Italy, prop Tim Ryan is aiming to show his set piece progress with Newport Gwent Dragons.

As a former back row forward, the 27-year-old tighthead heads to Rodney Parade with a reputation as a strong ball carrier and hard-working defender.

Making explosive charges and big hits are all well and good but the Irishman, who has Munster, Toulon, Newcastle and Cavalieri Prato on his CV, is all too aware that he will need to earn his corn at the set piece.

Ryan said: "You can be as strong as you want in the loose but that needs to be combined with locking down the scrum and lineout.

"I know people don’t like to talk about stats but if you are getting smashed in the scrum, lineout and not taking your restarts then the likelihood is that you are not going to win the game.

"I learned a lot about scrummaging in France and Italy, where they really take pride in their set piece.

"I’ve worked with Seb Bruno at Toulon, Micky Ward at Newcastle, Fredericio Pucciariello at Munster and have taken a lot from all of those guys.

"Over the last few years I have been able to really get into my scrummaging and that comes with experience.

"People always said it would come, the older props know what to do and how to react to things in the scrum while you are just head down and pushing when young.

"Look at Adam Jones, he was good five or six years ago but now he is awesome.

"It’s great as a player to be able to see that you can develop like that with experience and through improving your technique."

Nonetheless, Ryan could provide a more mobile alternative to young tightheads Nathan Buck and Dan Way.

The Cork native came through the ranks as a back row forward with Munster and was also deployed as a loose forward for Ireland Under-19s at the Junior World Championships in France.

"I reckon I could have made it at a decent standard in the back row but I wanted to play at a higher level in the front row," he said.

"Carrying ball has always been the strongest part of my game and I like the more physical confrontations in defence around the ruck, smashing pick and goes and hitting things.

"I always defended more like a tight five forward.

"Coaches used to give out to me about that and were frustrated that I was not in midfield tackling and jackaling.

"It suited my game more to move into the front row. It took me a while to get used to it but I have enjoyed the change."

It was in the colours of Prato that Ryan caught the eye of the Dragons coaches in two Amlin Challenge Cup encounters against the region last season.

"The Amlin put me on the market and I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t taken that risk," he said.

"But I’m glad that a two-year deal will allow me to settle here.

"It’s a great opportunity for me and it will also be good to go back over to Ireland in the Pro12 and show people how much I have grown as a player through taking a chance and playing abroad.

"Maybe a few over there could take a risk.

"There are fellas that have stayed at clubs and don’t get a chance," he added.

"They don’t want to leave and that loyalty is good but I grew up a lot as a person, let alone as a player, through leaving and getting out of my comfort zone.

"I think I have developed and hope to show that here and help the Dragons push into the Heineken Cup."