IF you were to make a Dragons depth chart on Microsoft Excel then you would probably get to at least column M before inputting Cory Hill as a blindside option.

The lock would find himself behind, in no particular order, Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths, Ross Moriarty, Harri Keddie, Lewis Evans, James Benjamin, James Thomas, Huw Taylor, James Sheekey and Brandon Nansen in the pecking order.

It's also likely that Hill would also go after Max Williams and Taine Basham and perhaps even their Wales Under-20s teammates Lennon Greggains and Ben Fry.

If that's the case at the Dragons, then add in the riches from the Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues and it's fair to say that Hill is way down the list of options for Warren Gatland in the 6 jersey.

Yet there is merit in the idea of trying the Rodney Parade captain in the back row, as has been mooted by Wales, even if there are better specialist options.

Last summer there was plenty of praise for Gatland after he rang the changes for the Tests against South Africa and Argentina.

By leaving his Lions at home the head coach boosted strength and depth as the World Cup looms.

There are a handful of shoo-ins for Japan 2019 but there will be plenty of selection headaches for Gatland, Rob Howley, Robin McBryde and Shaun Edwards, even though there will inevitably be some sad losses through injury.

The 31-man squad limit provides a challenge for every single World Cup contender; there will be high-profile absentees and the composition of the group needs thought.

Can they cope with two hookers or a pair of scrum-halves? Is there a prop who can play both loosehead and tighthead? Is there room for an out-and-out openside or do flankers have to be hybrids?

Versatile players are invaluable and not just a Matt Giteau, Ruan Pienaar, Austin Healey, Kurtley Beale sort who can fill in behind the scrum.

At New Zealand 2011 Wales had lock/flanker Ryan Jones while at England 2015 Gatland plumped for five second row forwards and had the versatile James King covering the back five.

The national management no doubt had Seb Davies earmarked as a potential for that role and the talented Cardiff Blues forward has been shifted around.

That versatility has probably been to his detriment and now the 22-year-old is behind Adam Beard in the pecking order at lock after the Osprey impressed against Argentina.

Gatland could do with players that provide him with contingency plans and the head coach needs to think about everything that could happen in Japan.

They have plotted the days, weeks and months leading up to the tournament and they will have prepared for what happens out there. It is being meticulous to plan all the way up to the final on November 2, not arrogant.

Gatland will expect to be playing knockout rugby on the weekend of October 19 but before that he has a four-day turnaround to contend with.

Wales should secure a quarter-final place against Fiji on Wednesday, October 9 and then face a final group game with what should be a romp against Uruguay the following Sunday.

That's the perfect game to rest key players and get creative – you won't get away with playing blindside Aaron Shingler as a lock or lock Hill as a blindside against the All Blacks but it's fair to assume they'd cope against Los Teros.

Whatever Gatland's thinking, it's worth a look at the Dragons skipper in the back row, whether that's in training away from public scrutiny at the Vale resort or with a quick blast there in the closing stages of autumn Tests.

If it doesn't work or Hill looks ugly there – think Alun Wyn Jones at blindside in the 62-5 at Twickenham in 2007 – then the experiment can be binned.

Versatility won't be the prime reason for a player making the 31 – all will be judged on how they perform in their primary role – but it might help an individual get the nod if they are level-pegging with a rival.

South Wales Argus:

THE Principality Premiership takes a breather this weekend with seven clubs afraid to look down when taking in the table.

Jeopardy is back in the top flight and it is shaping up to be a cracking season as a result, although the unfortunate clubs scrambling near the basement may beg to differ.

Four clubs will be relegated next year and a fifth will play what promises to be a humdinger of a play-off against the WRU National Championship winners, which will be Pontypool unless they make an almighty balls-up of their promotion bid.

The drop means that the greatest interest in 2018/19 will be on who survives to be part of the revamped 12-team Premiership rather than who lifts the trophy aloft.

It's still early days with nine of the 30 games played in the first block of fixtures yet there has already been a split in the table.

One imagines that the title tussle may prove to be short-lived; Merthyr are just three clear of Pontypridd and six ahead of Ebbw Vale.

The Ironmen's squad depth and class means they will slip up less than their rivals over the course of a long season.

If Merthyr do stretch clear then it will be all eyes on the basement and sadly it is likely that there will be Gwent interest in the relegation scrap.

Ebbw and Newport will not be complacent despite encouraging starts to the campaign, but it will be a surprise if they are biting finger nails in April.

Alas, Cross Keys, Bedwas and Bargoed are in the seven-team group at the bottom along with winless Neath, Llanelli, Swansea and Bridgend.

There will be twists and turns but one imagines it is five from that group, a situation that will be hell for those at Pandy Park, Bridge Field and Bargoed Park but great viewing for neutrals.

The Premiership has suffered in recent seasons from frequent meddling but the return of relegation has given the league a shot in the arm.