TIGHTHEAD prop Nathan Buck has penned a three-year deal with Newport Gwent Dragons – and is being tipped to push for Wales honours.
The 22-year-old from Gilwern has been rewarded for a stellar first campaign with the region.
This time last year Buck was preparing for a season with Cross Keys in the Premiership after over two years on the sidelines because of three major operations on his right knee.
The 6ft 3in front rower was behind Ben Castle, Nigel Hall, Gethin Robinson and Dan Way in the Dragons pecking order but ended the campaign as first choice.
Buck made 27 appearances, 21 in the number 3 jersey, and earned a two-year extension on his current contract.
Now his bosses hope he can continue his rapid ascent and develop into a potential successor to Wales and Lions great Adam Jones.
“I think this new deal is just reward for the effort that Nathan has put in because he had an extremely tough few years,” said director of rugby Robert Beale.
“His performances last season were exceptional and to be involved in 27 games after having a potentially career-ending knee injury was fantastic.
“Nathan is a young man that I feel has a very bright future ahead of him. We are not blessed in terms of tightheads in Wales and I believe he has potential to push for international honours.
“This will be his first full pre-season for three years and he is looking in great shape.
“Nathan is still a kid in terms of propping age so of course there are areas for improvement, but he is working hard and has a hell of a future ahead of him.” Buck will be vying for the start at tighthead with 25-year-old Dan Way, who is entering the second of his three years under contract, and new signing Tim Ryan.
The Irishman, who arrives from Cavalieri Prato after spells with Munster, Toulon and Newcastle, has penned a two-year deal with the region.
Castle and Hall retired because of injury last season while Robinson was released by the Dragons, though he remains at Rodney Parade after signing with Newport.
Meanwhile, there is no truth to speculation former Ireland Under-20s tighthead Stewart Maguire is returning to Rodney Parade. The 22-year-old, who is 6ft 5in, is with Connacht after heading west from Leinster, who he joined from the Dragons academy in 2009.