RESULTS so far this season haven’t done much to remove the stigma associated with the Dragons but Cory Hill certainly did his bit in Cardiff on Saturday.

The lock’s name wasn’t the first that came to my mind when I was told on return from a trip to Maesglas Tesco for a sarnie on October 26, 2016 that a Dragon had been called up to the Wales squad for the autumn internationals.

Hill, who had been informed of the happy news in the gloom of Krasnodar after a loss to Enisei-STM, was certainly a shock call-up, but he grasped a chance that came because of others’ injury misfortune.

He featured prominently that autumn, kept his place for the following Six Nations, was vice-captain for the summer tour, was called up by the Lions to provide cover then played a second entire autumn series in succession.

The strides that the Dragons lock has made as a player since coming off the bench against Australia for his first cap have been huge. Not once has he let his country down.

Yet still Hill has critics who love to sneer.

Perhaps that’s because of an unconventional career route that saw him head over for a brief spell in the English Championship after being released by Cardiff Blues.

He was only with Moseley for a few months before brought to Rodney Parade by Lyn Jones, and after initially looking like solid squad fodder, has turned himself into a leader.

But the 25-year-old from Maesycoed in Pontypridd, who will be hoping for a birthday present of a victory at Twickenham on Saturday, isn’t a player that gets many plaudits.

That’s partly because he plays for an unfashionable club; it’s partly because of the way he looks.

Even with the extra centimetre of height that he has on the WRU profile compared to the Dragons’ one, Hill does not boast the physical attributes of Jake Ball, the man who is ahead of him in the Wales pecking order but is out with a shoulder injury. But rugby is about more than that, as was shown last weekend.

If the six locks named for action in the Six Nations opener between Wales and Scotland – Alun Wyn Jones, Hill, Bradley Davies, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray and Grant Gilchrist – had been lined up before kick-off for a schoolyard pick then the Dragons man would probably be left until last by most.

Not by Warren Gatland.

It’s not empty rhetoric when the Wales boss hails Hill as the most-improved forward over the last year and a half; the head coach admires his leadership, his comfort with ball in hand, his rugby brain.

That was clear for all to see against the Scots with the Dragons skipper not only getting through a mountain of work but showing prominently in the loose, operating as the key figure in the block play for Leigh Halfpenny’s first score and then showing a nice turn of pace and sleight of hand to fool wing Byron McGuigan and set Hadleigh Parkes in motion in the 52nd minute.

It was Hill’s best Test display and the challenge is to back it up against the English lumps, no easy task against Joe Launchbury, George Kruis and Maro Itoje. If he does put in another 7 or 8/10 then perhaps it will make the naysayers reconsider.

It will also provide another boost for the Dragons as they attempt to change a perception that to be at Rodney Parade you must a) not be very good, b) lack options elsewhere, c) be soft in the head.

Hopefully that viewpoint is becoming an outdated one and the performances of Hill, wing Hallam Amos last autumn and Elliot Dee, who has taken to life in Test camp superbly, can only help.

Historically the Dragons have had to work harder for call-ups because a tight decision will understandably go the way of an individual whose team is performing better.

But the trio currently in camp, plus Leon Brown last autumn, have all looked at home on the international stage and that can only help the causes of their teammates.

Taulupe Faletau was so freakishly talented that there was no link to what was going on at Rodney Parade but the way that Hill has settled and improved with Wales could convince Gatland and the management to give more Dragons a crack in the future.

Those of us who watch Hill week in, week out have seen the improvements that he has made since becoming an international player.

Fingers crossed he can be something of a trailblazer to help some of his unfancied teammates enjoy a similar experience.