AN EVERPRESENT in the Grand Slam, involved in all four summer Tests, a part of every World Cup win on Wales’ way to Sunday’s semi-final… yet this isn’t another piece about the remarkable rise of Aaron Wainwright.

Perhaps it’s tribute to the flanker’s accomplishments that he has managed to put one of his Dragons teammates in the shade.

Elliot Dee will once again have 16 on his back on Saturday morning, charged with adding energy off the bench against South Africa.

It will be the 27th successive international matchday squad that the 25-year-old from Newbridge has been involved in.

Dee will win his 28th cap against the Springboks and his performances have earned the trust of Warren Gatland and his management team.

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The Dragons front rower has started just six Tests – twice against Italy in the Six Nations, twice on the 2018 summer tour, versus Tonga last November and against Ireland before heading to Japan – but do not downplay his influence.

Wales had just earned a one-point lead against France last Sunday when Dee was called from the bench for the final five minutes. This time there was no repeat of Paris, when a botched lineout gave Les Bleus one last chance at earning their lead back.

The Dragons man slotted in next to replacement props Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis with lock Adam Beard partnering Alun Wyn Jones after coming on for the excellent Jake Ball.

A strong scrum earned a penalty that was kicked to the 22, where Dee safely found Beard at the front. Job done, onto Yokohama.

The term ‘finishers’ is horrendous, but Dee has earned the respect and trust of Gatland to be there at the final whistle.

The head coach won’t make the change if he doesn’t feel it is needed or if he deems that the risk outweighs the reward.

In the Lions’ second Test against New Zealand two years ago it was Owens that stayed sat on the bench while Jamie George played the full 80 minutes. Against Australia last autumn Dee’s streak of Test activity was ended when the score was 9-6 and Owens was having a stormer.

“Maybe you guys have got to start reporting differently. Maybe you’ve got to stop reporting like you did 30 years ago,” said England boss Eddie Jones when challenged about dropping George Ford.

“Come into the modern rugby. Join us, join us! The invitation there’s to join us, guys. Rugby’s changed. It’s a 23-man game.”

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It undoubtedly is, but Dee won’t be content at being Owens’ deputy and his desire will be to become the main man after the World Cup.

He can do that by being to the fore at the Dragons and the hooker is now firmly established as one of his region’s leaders.

Dee is an inspiration for his teammates who have watched him go from injury-plagued player of promise to established international in the last four of the World Cup.

Few players enjoy an ascent like George North, Aaron Wainwright or Carre, most have to bide their time and go through the odd trough.

Jack Dixon, a member of Wales’ training squad for England 2015, has stagnated after initially being earmarked as a potential Jamie Roberts replacement.

That is partly due to injury but he remains the Dragons’ best 12 on his day. He needs to cement that place first and become a top-quality regional player first, then who knows?

Harrison Keddie looked like a man among boys when rampaging around for Wales Under-20s in their 2016 Grand Slam.

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Like Dixon, injury misfortune has been frequent but the abrasive back row forward has time on his side.

Ollie Griffiths should probably look at Josh Navidi rather than Dee as his inspiration – the Cardiff Blues flanker had to keep knocking at the door before finally cracking Test rugby.

Whether at blindside, openside or number eight, Griffiths has the ability to be an international regular if he can string together games.

The second half of that sentence rings true for centre Tyler Morgan, who has won just two caps since starting against South Africa at Twickenham in the last World Cup.

When the next tournament kicks off in France Jonathan Davies will be 35, Hadleigh Parkes will be 36 and Scott Williams 33.

Owen Lane is seen by many as the heir apparent at outside centre but Morgan has the talent to change that if he stays fit and builds his confidence.

There is a new regime coming and while Wayne Pivac won’t be coming in with a blank piece of paper, the former Scarlets boss will be open to changing it up.

The New Zealander and his coaches have already been in Ystrad Mynach on their tour of the regions and that should give incentive for those jealously watching Warren Gatland’s squad on ITV.

Three years ago Elliot Dee feared for his Dragons future after having three ankle operations and another on his nose.

Now he is a Test regular who most European clubs would love to have on their books, and one who is 160 minutes away from joining icons Sean Fitzpatrick, Phil Kearns, Steve Thompson and John Smit as World Cup-winning hookers.