WHEN Ceri Jones gets home from a long day in Ystrad Mynach he'd be wise to avoid turning on Netflix and plumping for Bandersnatch.

The latest episode of Black Mirror entails the viewer making decisions for the main character, choices that send the plot in different directions.

After taking the reins from sacked Dragons boss Bernard Jackman, Jones no doubt has enough decisions to make in his working day to be confronted by yet more when trying to relax.

The former Wales prop has been given the job as caretaker head coach until the end of the season and has a golden opportunity to ensure it is his name that goes on the door to the boss' office in the summer.

If Jones can build on the encouraging performances in the festive derbies and enjoy a couple more wins in the Guinness PRO14 – and especially if he can break the embarrassing 39-game losing streak on the road – then he can turn from being a possible to being the frontrunner.

The 41-year-old has thrown his hat into the ring for the job and wants to be in the middle of the 2019/20 Dragons team photo as head coach rather than on the flank as forwards coach.

But whatever unfolds over the coming months, Jones will be at the heart of how the Rodney Parade region looks when they get next season under way.

The axing of Jackman means that a new figure must make some very, very hard decisions for a side that will operate on a measly budget.

The Dragons have overspent this season and must do some trimming.

Last week's early departure of Rynard Landman on loan to Soyaux Angouleme in France was an indication of an organisation that has to consider budget rather than solely judging on talent.

One expects that two other experienced campaigners will head to the exit when their deals expire in former Springboks back Zane Kirchner, who put in some fine festive performances, and Gavin Henson.

They possess impressive CVs and are classy operators but the Dragons have to cut the wage bill.

Some decisions will surely be easy – Adam Warren has been superb since he headed east from the Scarlets in 2015 and covers midfield and the wing. Nobody in the PRO14 is more reliable than the modest 27-year-old.

But some calls are extremely hard, as proven by his west Wales carshare pal and fellow good egg Nic Cudd.

The flanker has put his body on the line for the Dragons since 2012, making 129 appearances and setting a regional record for the amount of stitches required.


The 30-year-old is an honest, decent bloke who has been the bedrock of the Dragons through some tough times.

He is a player with the ability to make others look good… yet Cudd is unfortunate to be a player in a position where the management are spoilt for choice.

The Dragons already have Aaron Wainwright and Ollie Griffiths as prime options at openside with James Benjamin and the Wales Under-20s trio of Taine Basham, Lennon Greggains and Ben Fry also on the books.

Such back row riches will have to come into Jones' thoughts when plotting the make-up of his squad.

A budget of the Dragons' size –one that has Wales and Lions back rower Ross Moriarty eating up too much of it – means that the coaches need to lean heavily on the academy.

The new deal between the regions and the Welsh Rugby Union will increase that dependence; young lads will be asked to do man's work.

The Dragons cannot afford waste and they must avoid making too many punts, a mistake that has been made frequently by coaches in recent times.

Calvin Wellington was brought back to Union from Super League giants St Helens in 2017 but has played just two Anglo-Welsh Cup games.

Last summer Tiaan Loots and Jacob Botica were signed from RGC; the former has not played because of summer injury misfortune, the latter isn't considered ready for pro rugby and it was worrying that he was even considered for a game against Timisoara Saracens.

Perhaps those individuals will prove their worth in time but at the moment it's wasted funds.

Squads need bodies but such punts all add up and the Dragons cannot afford that when they are going to face a tough few years of cost-cutting and hard decisions.

Given the constraints that they are going to face can they convince Wales hopeful Ashton Hewitt to stay, let alone Wales international Hallam Amos? If both want to stay then can both be afforded?

Tough calls are going to be made across the board in Welsh rugby but especially in Newport and at least Jones is going into this with his eyes wide open and is ready to roll up his sleeves.

Going from right-hand man to calling the shots means that the former prop will now have to invite unlucky individuals into his office for the hardest of conversations.

That hasn't put him off and Jones is clearly up for the challenge, which is a major tick in the box for the top job at the Dragons.

Whoever is in the hotseat next September will have to keep making the hard decisions and manage to squeeze every last drop of talent out of the small squad at their disposal.

That Jones isn't scared of the hard work that lies ahead is encouraging and has to give him a great shot of being Jackman's successor.