CAN a player be considered a great if they would often be overlooked when naming a first-choice XV throughout his career at a club? Nic Cudd emphatically provides the answer.

The flanker has had to scrap for a starting spot since heading for Rodney Parade from Llanelli in 2012 and, in truth, if everybody was fit then he’d probably be backing up those with bigger reputations rather than being inked in.

The back row has always been an area of strength for the Dragons and since Cudd’s arrival he has played alongside, and competed for starts with, the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Lewis Evans, Andrew Coombs, Nick Crosswell, Netani Talei, Ed Jackson,

At the moment the region’s top trio would be Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths and Ross Moriarty, three players who could well be bound for the World Cup with Wales.

But Cudd has never been afraid of a fight for a starting jersey and has never grumbled when overlooked, traits that have made him popular with every single coach that he has worked under.

That the west Walian has racked up 130 appearances for the Dragons over seven seasons shows the openside’s value to his peers and bosses.

South Wales Argus:

The 30-year-old is a Dragons great, a player who has put his body on the line for the region with the scar tissue to prove it.

In a league featuring turnover kings Ellis Jenkins, Justin Tipuric, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, James Davies and Olly Robinson, few can rival jackal specialist Cudd at the contact area. He will sniff out an opportunity, plant those classic Adidas boots, get over the ball and prove impossible to budge despite giving up a height and weight advantage to most opponents.

Cudd is a player who rarely drops below a 7/10 performance; even in heavy defeats he excels in limiting the damage.

So, great is an appropriate word for such a rugby warrior, and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of him in a Dragons jersey.

Last week Cudd became a victim of Project Reset, the agreement between the regions and Welsh Rugby Union that still hasn’t been rubber-stamped.

The delay means budgets haven’t been confirmed and contracts with players whose deals expire this summer haven’t been signed.

Most renegotiations would be sorted by now in a normal year and it was inevitable that some unlucky soul would get injured in these months.

Nobody deserves that but it is even more gut-wrenching that it is a fate suffered by Cudd, a player of total commitment and a genuine, humble, modest bloke.

The flanker has ruptured ligaments in his left knee for the second time (he sat out all of 2017/18 after doing the same to his right) and now faces the long, frustrating road to recovery.

It is a severe injury but the Dragons are helped by Cudd’s past exploits, with his approach over almost seven years actually putting them in a pretty simple position.

They will do right by the player and help in his rehab after an operation at the end of this month. They will provide mental and physical support and then it’s the waiting game.

Given that this is professional sport, there are plenty of ifs.

If Cudd wants to play on, if the op is a success, if the comeback all goes to plan, if he passes a medical then they can hopefully sign terms.

South Wales Argus:

It is a situation that happened at Rodney Parade last March when Newport County talisman Joss Labadie suffered a knee injury.

The midfield was out of contract in the summer, worked hard to recover and then signed fresh terms with the Exiles in October.

The hero of the Spurs draw locked horns with Sane, Silva and Stones when Manchester City visited Rodney Parade last weekend.

Hopefully similar will happen for Cudd; if anyone deserves the rub of the green then it’s him.

The Dragons’ budget (whenever it is signed off) will not be big but caretaker boss Ceri Jones has already indicated that they will find room for the openside if his recovery goes to plan.

There may be bright back row prospects on the books in Taine Basham, Lennon Greggains, Ben Fry and Max Williams and in Cudd they not only have a breakdown master to learn from but a role model in terms of being a pro.

South Wales Argus:

The west Walian does a lot of media duties due to his Cymraeg, despite being a man who would rather do his talking through his on-field deeds. When speaking in English Cudd has an endearing habit of throwing in the odd ‘duw’.

His exploits for the Dragons have left their mark on Cudd’s body but, duw, the flanker has left his mark on the Dragons.

Fingers crossed Cudd can make a full recovery, enjoy an emotional 131st appearance and then many more.

There isn’t much room for sentiment in pro rugby and the final say will rightly hinge on the medics, but the blood spilled by Cudd for the Dragons’ cause deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a new deal.