THE GRUMBLING will resume when Wales take to the field in Toyota for their World Cup opener on Monday, September 23 without Rhys Webb having 9 on his back.

But while Warren Gatland inwardly bemoans being unable to select a world-class player, it's a situation that is giving the Dragons a fighting chance.

Were it not for the power of the red jersey then it's likely that Sam Davies would have been preparing for pre-season training in England or France rather than Ystrad Mynach.

The fly-half was swift to state his desire to force his way back into the Wales fold after signing a two-year deal to head to the Dragons from the Ospreys.

The 25-year-old wants to push to be part of Wayne Pivac's set-up after being overlooked by Gatland, who is blessed with Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell and Jarrod Evans as World Cup options, since winning his eighth cap against Samoa in the summer of 2017.

South Wales Argus:

"Staying in Wales and a commitment to Welsh Rugby was a key part of that decision, as I still have ambitions to play for my country and that will continue to be a focus and help drive me forward," he said.

"I want to compete and play at the highest level and I'm hopeful, with a new Wales coaching set-up, that I will get an opportunity again in the future if I'm playing at the top of my game."

The Dragons are in something of a quandary; the carrot of Test rugby helped them get their man but they would be quite happy if he stayed on the fringes.

Regions find value in players who are capable of playing international rugby but are on club duty throughout the season, especially given that their relatively small budgets lead to thinner squad than their European rivals.

Put the Dragons' strongest possible XV down on paper and arguably six players – Ryan Bevington, Ross Moriarty, Rhodri Williams, Sam Davies, Ashton Hewitt and Jordan Williams – are only at Rodney Parade because of Wales selection policy.

Five of them signed with the Dragons because it would mean they could be called up, with Moriarty the only one to have been picked, and Hewitt, denied a Test bow by injury last summer, re-signed because of his dream of winning his first cap.

South Wales Argus:

Yet a two-year deal means that they could do with Davies earning a recall before they start talks over an extension, because those English and French clubs will come sniffing again in the winter of 2020.

The carrot of international rugby is useful – and Cory Hill, Elliot Dee and Aaron Wainwright have shown that being at the Dragons is not a barrier to Wales honours – but the Dragons know they must also make strides under new boss Dean Ryan in order to keep hold of their best talent.

Because make no mistake, Cardiff Blues, the Ospreys and Scarlets will be well aware of the contract expiry dates of all of those players who Pivac will be calling on.

For those on the fringes that have hopes of forcing their way in – Davies, Ollie Griffiths, Harri Keddie, Tyler Morgan, Jared Rosser – the 60-cap rule is a major influence on sticking around rather than heading over the border.

But they can only make that next step by being part of a successful club team, and without (relative) success their patience will wear thin.

On that front the signing of Davies is massive boost for the Dragons, who have been hunting an established fly-half since Darren Edwards went after Andy Goode and Nicky Robinson. Fingers crossed he will prove to be a more successful recruit than Kris Burton.

Social media is not always a good gauge, but some supporters seem to doubt whether he is much of an upgrade on his fellow left-footer Jason Tovey, who was let go at the end of the season.

I am a fan of Tovey – and wish that budget allowed both to be kept – but Davies is a class act with the potential to play smart, kick his goals and get the backs moving.

The former Ospreys is as good a signing as you could expect for the Dragons, who are not in a financial position to be snaring Handre Pollard or Aaron Cruden.

But it's important to stress that he isn't a miracle-worker; the region has needed an upgrade at 10 for a number of seasons but they still have holes in their team.

South Wales Argus:

Budget constraints mean that the frontline centres will be Jack Dixon, Morgan and Adam Warren, backed up by Connor Edwards, Tiaan Loots (yet to play a professional game because of injury misfortune) and Wales Under-20s bright prospect Aneurin Owen.

The senior back-three options are Jordan Williams, Hewitt, Rosser, Dafydd Howells and Will Talbot-Davies, with up-and-comers Rio Dyer, Joe Goodchild, Deon Smith and James McCarthy aiming to break through.

Director of rugby Ryan knows that he needs some luck in his first season, and for the medical team to work wonders, in order to field a competitive XV.

Davies has joined a squad that has underperformed but still isn't one that should be expected to be in the mix in the top-half of the PRO14.

Perhaps an international fly-half would have won a handful of games over the past few campaigns but one man is not going to turn a team that avoided finishing bottom of Conference B thanks to a shock win against the Scarlets into one that is hunting the play-offs.

Davies is a fine player and his arrival will hopefully also bring the best out of Josh Lewis, who had a strong end to 2018/19 thanks to his tussle with Tovey, but the new boy needs to be given time to bed in and allowed to slowly help the Dragons rise.