THE Dragons hope that developing a New Zealand rugby mindset can help Dan Suter push for a starting spot at Rodney Parade next season.

While his teammates are getting stuck into pre-season training, the 24-year-old tighthead is in the southern hemisphere playing for Otorohanga in Waikato.

Academy centre Tom Hoppe and lock Henri Williams are also experiencing New Zealand club rugby at the start of their careers but for the more experienced Suter it’s a chance to get back on track after injury misfortune.

The prop arrived from the Ospreys last summer but a ruptured Achilles suffered at Exeter in pre-season meant he made just four appearances.

Suter wore the Dragons number 3 jersey just once – against the Scarlets at Principality Stadium in the Guinness PRO14 finale – but the hope is that a spell on the North Island can aid his prospects for 2018/19.

Dragons forwards coach Ceri Jones prospered himself from such a move, playing for Mid Canterbury and Southern Stags before signing for Newport RFC, and hopes his protege finds the experience invigorating.

“It’s a change of scenery for the boys and it’s getting into the New Zealand mindset, whether it be semi-professional or professional, the whole place is rugby mad. All anyone speaks about is rugby, rugby, rugby and it’s embedded in you,” said the twice-capped prop.

“The work rate of guys over there who are not even semi-professional is incredible with the amount of extra gym sessions that they do just because of a love of the game and wanting to get better.

“That ethos really rubs off on the boys and the guys are giving a really good account of themselves over there, we get regular feedback and all the New Zealand clubs have been impressed.”

Suter, a member of the Wales side that lost to England in the 2013 final of the World Rugby U20 Championship, headed east last year after making 33 appearances for the Ospreys.

He now faces a fierce battle to make the Dragons side with head coach Bernard Jackman having Wales internationals Leon Brown and Aaron Jarvis, who has arrived from Clermont Auvergne, as his primary options along with Lloyd Fairbrother, who had an impressive 2017/18.

“To come in and get injured against Exeter was disappointing for Dan and then the game he got at the end, we obviously struggled against the Scarlets which was a disappointment for all of us,” said Jones.

“It will be good for him mentally to go over there and have a whole new experience and hopefully come back a better player, refreshed and ready for the challenge because there is a depth of player at tighthead this year that we haven’t had for some time.

“That’s exciting for me – I have got some good cattle to work with and it’s down to me to make sure it works.”

And when it comes to livestock, Jones has found a way to get some extra help on the family farm outside Usk.

The competitive element of pre-season training in Ystrad Mynach has allowed some Dragons players to earn rewards, such as cinema tickets, while others have been given extra tasks.

Last week that meant Lewis Evans, Harrison Keddie, Lloyd Fairbrother and Joe Davies lending a hand with Jones’ sheep shearing.

Jones said: “I am trying to get a bit more of it – only having four players and doing a bit of shearing was lightweight! I don’t think we’ve had quite enough, I’ve got dipping for them to do, de-horning…

“The boys are starting to whinge a little bit but they are pretending to like it because they know I do tend to pick the pack.

“Lewis even came up with his own farming cap, a tweed effort, but that didn’t last long when he started to sweat.

“We had a good day and it’s nice for the fellas to get out in Gwent and there are a lot of Dragons supporters from the rural areas.

“I’ve had a lot of comments from season ticket holders who are farmers that it was about time the Dragons did an honest day’s work!”