DRAGONS stalwart Nic Cudd has signed a one-year contract extension, with an added role working with the academy while rehabilitating from ruptured knee ligaments.

The openside flanker has been a huge hit at Rodney Parade since heading east from Llanelli in 2012.

The 30-year-old breakdown specialist has put his body on the line for the Dragons, racking up 130 appearances and a lengthy list of cuts, bruises and injuries.

Cudd’s contract was running down when he damaged knee ligaments in his left leg when training in Ystrad Mynach in February.

It is the third time that the flanker has ruptured knee ligaments but he is ready to fight for a return before the end of 2019, and then for the 7 jersey with Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths, James Benjamin and Taine Basham.

“I’m really pleased to sign the new contract and looking forward to continuing to give everything I have for the Dragons,” said Cudd, whose academy role is likely to be as a breakdown and defence mentor.

“I’ve had fantastic support from the region throughout my rehabilitation and I can start looking forward to a playing return.

“It’s a new beginning for all of us with the appointment of Dean Ryan and there is a real buzz around the squad as everyone looks to impress.

“My recovery is going well and I can’t wait to pull the jersey back on and get back out on the field with my teammates.”

Forwards coach Ceri Jones highlighted the importance of Cudd when acting as caretaker boss last season, pledging to look after the flanker after his injury misfortune.

The former prop, now assistant to director of rugby Dean Ryan, is delighted that the Dragons have been able to agree terms with the openside.

“We’re all thrilled that Cuddy is staying with us,” said Jones. “He’s a player who comes off the field with battle wounds every weekend, is ultra-competitive in everything he does and wears his heart on his sleeve.

“Cuddy has become a core part of the group and really is the complete professional, week in and week out.

“He continues to work extremely hard on his rehab and we’re all looking forward to welcoming him back in the coming months.”

While Cudd is staying, tighthead prop Nicky Thomas has left the Dragons with immediate effect.

The 24-year-old front rower signed in December, 2017, initially on loan, but failed to make an impact because of fitness and mobility issues.

The Dragons followed the Ospreys, Scarlets, Gloucester and Bristol in hoping to be the club to finally untap the potential of the Wales Under-20s international.

However, he made just eight appearances – playing just 38 minutes in three Challenge Cup substitute outings last season – and an agreement has been struck for him to head out the door.