DEAN Ryan knew when watching Will Rowlands slug it out with Exeter in the Premiership final at a sodden Twickenham that the towering lock would be the perfect addition to the Dragons pack.

Less than a year on and just two games into his Rodney Parade career, the director of rugby has already hailed the Wales forward as a “catalyst” for improvement at the region.

The 6ft 7ins lock has stood tall with confrontational performances in the narrow United Rugby Championship defeats to the Ospreys and Leinster.

Rowlands has got through a mountain of work and added serious heft when carrying, defending and in the set piece.

“I watched him in the final against Exeter with Joe Launchbury and I’ve never seen a pairing work as hard when being battered in the 22,” said director of rugby Ryan about the former Wasps man. “I knew what we were getting but it’s nice to see it, that’s for sure.”

South Wales Argus: Dragons lock Will RowlandsDragons lock Will Rowlands

Rowlands has joined Ben Carter in the second row for the opening two rounds, resuming a partnership from the three summer Tests, while Joe Maksymiw is in the mix for a start against Connacht on Saturday evening.

The Dragons named an all-international starting pack against Leinster on Sunday, albeit loosehead Aki Seiuli is yet to be capped by Samoa, but the 30-year-old lock is setting the standards.

“Will is pretty reserved. He is quite quiet but brings a huge amount of presence through actions,” said Ryan.

“He also has almost a silent presence that brings people together and provides opportunity for others to speak.

“He has been fantastic for us. I knew what I thought we were getting but it's nice to see it in Dragons colours.

“That's becoming a catalyst for others to work as hard as he does and contribute as much as he does. He has been at the forefront of our game.

“I’ve not seen many athletic players who are that big. He brings an incredible power and work rate to a huge frame. There aren’t many around capable of combining both.”

Rowlands was a long-term target of the Dragons, who were helped by the Welsh Rugby Union selection policy that meant he had to move from Wasps to continue his international career.

South Wales Argus: Dragons boss Dean RyanDragons boss Dean Ryan

With the financial issues facing the Rodney Parade side, Ryan will continue with a targeted approach for top-quality individuals.

“Recruitment in Wales is a long-term challenge,” he said. “You can add a few people every opportunity you get but you don't get a significant amount of movement between regions or from the exiles programme.

“It has been an incremental build and him coming to us is a fantastic addition that will hopefully move our game on and make us appealing to more people to keep moving the Dragons in the right direction.”

The Dragons name their team to face Connacht at midday with Ollie Griffiths still in contention to keep his starting spot.

The openside was forced off against Leinster because of a head injury and is completing the return to play protocols.