BEFORE Bernard Jackman was given the boot and the Welsh region’s budgets were thrown into uncertainty, a top-quality and experienced fly-half was top of the Dragons’ wishlist.

Last season there was the hope of bringing Owen Williams back from Gloucester with the carrot of a World Cup spot but, with money now tight, it remains to be seen whether a new 10 will arrive next season.

But even if there are not enough pennies in the pot, then a horrendous Saturday afternoon at Rodney Parade, with the sort of wet and windy weather than soaks even those towards the back of the stands, provided some reassurance.

The Dragons were guided around the park against title-chasing Munster in shocking conditions by fly-half Josh Lewis, who produced his most encouraging performance since returning to Wales from Bath.

The 26-year-old was named as the official man of the match by the Premier Sports pundits. While I plumped for hooker Richard Hibbard, who led front the front with a typically aggressive display, it was a good shout from former Dragons boss Jackman and ex-Wales flanker Martyn Williams.

Not only that, but the Guinness PRO14 medal for the honour should provide Lewis with a timely boost in his quest to prove himself at regional level.

South Wales Argus: STRONG DISPLAY: Josh Lewis impressed for the DragonsSTRONG DISPLAY: Josh Lewis impressed for the Dragons

The former stonemason’s exploits at Ebbw Vale earned a shot at the Scarlets in 2013 only for injuries to limit him to just 12 regional appearances over three seasons, and lead to a Eugene Cross Park return.

Once again he shone as a Steelman to earn a surprise shot at Bath – although it wasn’t a surprise to then Ebbw boss Nigel Davies, who isn’t a bad judge of talent – and he learnt from being understudy to Rhys Priestland and Freddie Burns.

From there the Dragons took a punt with the intention of him battling it out with prospect Arwel Robson for the 10 jersey, with former Wales and Lions playmaker Gavin Henson in reserve.

That Jackman was forced to borrow Jason Tovey from Cross Keys indicates how well that worked out.

Lewis looked promising in pre-season only to suffer from a loss of confidence and he was dropped after a nightmare performance against Northampton in Europe.

That he is now back in the 10 jersey and playing well is testament to his character.

Lewis admitted that he had a problem with confidence and worked with the Dragons’ sports psychologist to get out of “a dark place”.

He’s also reaped the rewards of an appetite for graft on the training paddock, while the arrival of Tovey has spurred him on.

The result is that the Dragons now have a player with the tools to be a solid regional fly-half.

It’s highly unlikely that he will ever be talked about in Wales’ great 10 debate along with the likes of Dan Biggar, Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland, Jarrod Evans or even Sam Davies.

However, Lewis has the ability to be a controlling 10 for the Dragons, a solid figure just below Test level.

That’s precious for a club not blessed with the funds to go out and snare a stellar name.

Lewis has the ability to be a good-quality regional fly-half; the Dragons’ version of Benetton-bound Munsterman Ian Keatley, or Stephen Myler, who ticked things along for Northampton before they moved for Biggar.

There is nothing wrong with being solid at fly-half and Lewis provides a different option to Tovey, who impressed over the autumn with his flat passing and decision-making.

The pair need to keep battling for the 10 jersey for the rest of the campaign to provide some comfort for coaches Ceri Jones and Barry Maddocks, who know they don’t have a big budget to work with.

The Dragons would love to bring in Owen Williams, Rhys Priestland or a seasoned foreign fly-half, but a confident Lewis isn’t a bad contingency plan.

South Wales Argus: WORLD CUP CONTENDER: Aaron Wainwright has impressed with the Dragons and WalesWORLD CUP CONTENDER: Aaron Wainwright has impressed with the Dragons and Wales

AT the Vale Resort in November ahead of the Test against Tonga, I asked Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright whether he genuinely thought there was a chance of making it to the World Cup.

It wasn't meant disrespectfully, it was just that Warren Gatland's back row riches made it seem like Japan 2019 would come a little soon for the Dragons prospect.

Wainwright himself acknowledged that, stressing that all he wanted to do was give the head coach a selection headache.

"First of all, I just want to play well this weekend," said the 21-year-old, before he did just that against the Tongans then repeated the trick against the Springboks.

"There are a lot of people to come back from injury and to come back into the team but the main thing is to just keep working hard.

"If I can add little things to my game and impress then that will put me in good stead for next year."

The prospect of Wainwright featuring in Japan no longer seems so distant.

The flanker has impressed every time he has taken to the field in Tests, cameos from the bench against Argentina and the Boks and from the off against Tonga.

His derby exploits were striking against his peers and made him a shoo-in for the Six Nations with a tournament debut likely in Paris after he got the nod for as back-up for the back row.

Others' injury misfortune has been an assistance again, with Taulupe Faletau, Ellis Jenkins, Aaron Shingler and Dan Lydiate among those sidelined.

That list of absentees means that Wainwright will still be an outsider for selection when Gatland names his 31 for the World Cup, but his inclusion would no longer prompt gasps.

His rapid rise since only taking up rugby at 17 and only making his Dragons debut in October, 2017 is well-documented.

That he has taken even step up in class in his stride has impressed Bernard Jackman and Ceri Jones at his club and Gatland and Robin McBryde at Test level.

If he can keep that up in Paris tomorrow against a monstrous French pack then his World Cup hopes will get another boost.

The Dragons have had some remarkable rags to riches tales through the years and Wainwright in Japan would be a yarn to rival Lloyd Burns going from building site to New Zealand 2011.