THIS time next year, rather than failing to hear leather on willow as the ball passes the edge on a green wicket under grey skies, we will be about to discover the destination of the Guinness PRO14 trophy.

The World Cup has pushed things back for 2019/20 – although it's fair to assume the Dragons won't be playing this deep into the year – but the Gallagher Premiership has already revealed the change to its calendar for the next three years with mid-June finals.

Rugby has been creeping into cricket territory for some time and, saying this as someone who loves the sport and makes a living out of it, there is too much of it (I realise that is a strange statement in a year-round column largely about rugby).

It's been nice to watch the Dragons contingent with interest at the World Rugby U20 Championship, while last Saturday's Top 14 final between Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne salvaged a night in.

But there is rugby fatigue and it becomes a challenge to maintain attention of those who love the game, let alone casual supporters.

The Dragons returned for pre-season training last Monday, five weeks after they ended a disappointing campaign on a tremendous high against the Scarlets at Judgement Day.

New recruit Sam Davies clocked in this week just 30 days after he helped the Ospreys secure Champions Cup qualification at the Liberty Stadium.

The Dragons are just ticking over rather than being flogged and doing brutal shuttle runs up Stow Hill, and I guess this is just a result of professionalism.

The players are being paid so are reporting in to make sure they are in tip-top shape for when pre-season training starts in earnest for the Dean Ryan era.

It's a challenge for head of strength and conditioning Ryan Harris, who has to keep the squad stimulated over this mammoth 2019/20 and is going to be thinking outside the box in these summer months.

Perhaps he could take inspiration from Andy Caddick, the cricketer who used to be a handyman at Taunton in the winter before he made the grade with England. I am sure head of operations Mark Jones would welcome some willing helpers to give Rodney Parade a lick of paint… What is more worrying is semi-professional and amateur clubs already meeting up. Have a proper break, lads.

But the creep of rugby deeper into the summer will present different challenges next June when we are reaching what should be the highlight of the season, with the PRO14 final potentially taking place at Cardiff City Stadium.

After the World Cup, the start of European competition, festive derbies, Six Nations then knockout stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, I'd imagine plenty of viewers will be flagging when it comes to the play-offs.

They want cricket, Royal Ascot, Queen's then Wimbledon, the Tour, maybe rugby league then the return of football at the start of August with rugby union a month later.

We have our established routine and it’s hard to change it.

It's unlikely that the masses at Rodney Parade will ever arrive to find their usual serving latch offering up strawberries and Pimm’s instead of a pint of ‘Bow but rugby could end up catering for a different customer at the end of the season to their regulars.

I don't deny that summer rugby has its appeal when the rain is lashing down in Newport, the wind is howling in Galway or when it's nearly impossible to type despite wearing fingerless gloves in Edinburgh.

But that's the rugby season and some of the most gripping games come in grim weather, although those low-scoring affairs probably wouldn't appeal to those that want to watch their rugby without the need for a waterproof.

The drift towards June risks turning the campaign into one long slog, for players and punters alike.

South Wales Argus: CLASS ACT: Dragons flanker Aaron Wainwright has enjoyed a rapid riseCLASS ACT: Dragons flanker Aaron Wainwright has enjoyed a rapid rise

THAT most of the Dragons squad didn't know who Aaron Wainwright was when he turned up for 2017 pre-season training highlights how ridiculous it is to be thinking two years ahead.

Stuart Barnes caused a ripple of excitement in some quarters when he mentioned his fellow former Bassaleg School pupil, along with another ex-Cardiff Met forward Alex Dombrandt, as a potential Lions bolter in the Sunday Times.

The famous touring side sparks predicted XVs like no other and it's all good knockabout fun, but there's a long way to go until Warren Gatland names his line-up to face Georgia in Toyota in September, let alone the Springboks in the summer of 2021.

Some players will rise like Wainwright, Dombrandt, Will Addison, Jordan Larmour, others will drop from being Test regulars to merely being good club men, some poor souls will suffer injury angst.

The Dragons flanker has certainly taken to Test rugby impressively, just as he did to professional rugby after making his debut against Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park in October, 2017.

Workaholic Wainwright has racked up 42 regional appearances out of a possible 53 since taking to the field in the capital, plus he has won eight caps and featured in every Grand Slam fixture.

The 21-year-old is undeniably a fast learner and has the character (he isn't taking a place in Japan for granted, so is unlikely to let Lions talk swell his head), physical attributes and talent to already make Rodney Parade bosses fear circling vultures.

It would be marvellous if one of the Dragons' internationals adds to Taulupe Faletau and Racing 92-bound Dan Lydiate in 2013 and Michael Owen and Gareth Cooper from the 2005 party.

But getting the nod for the Lions is the toughest of all selection tussles and there is plenty that can go right, and an awful lot that can go wrong.