TOM Griffiths enjoyed an early birthday gift last Saturday when he got his Dragons career off to a winning start – and the victory over Castres proved to be the highlight of the centre’s weekend.

The former Saracens back finally got to appear for the Rodney Parade region having recovered from ankle surgery he underwent just a few weeks after signing in the summer.

Griffiths partnered flatmate Tyler Morgan in the Dragons midfield as Dean Ryan’s men got their European Challenge Cup campaign up and running with an impressive 31-17 success on home soil.

Gloucester-born Griffiths, who qualifies to play for Wales through his dad, turned 24 the next day, but admits he didn’t have the best of birthdays.

Reflecting on his weekend, he said: “It had been a long time since I last played, probably about five or six months, so it was good to get back out there, especially ahead of schedule.

“I had quite a few months to get to know the boys before getting out there, and it was good fun.

“Obviously I’m good mates with some of the boys now so it was nice to share the field with them.

“We were delighted to get the win against a good outfit like Castres who have a huge budget and some really big boys.

“We started the first half well, managed to build a lead and shut up shop in the second half. We got the Challenge Cup off to a fantastic start and hopefully we can build from there.

“There was a lot of frustration on my part after missing a lot of rugby over the last few years, and it wasn’t an ideal start having surgery two or three weeks after being here.

“I was a bit rusty but to finally get back out there was great, and to start with a win gives our confidence a real boost.”

And when asked if he had a good birthday, he added: “I didn’t really do anything. I had a birthday cake but I didn’t eat any of it.

“My flatmate bought me a princess cake with a tiara on. Pretty terrible.

“It wasn’t my finest birthday and I’m starting to feel a bit old. I’m 24 now so it’s all downhill from here.”

With a dad born in Llanelli, it’s no wonder rugby became a big part of Griffiths’ life from a young age, although an English mum means a split family when it comes to the oval ball.

“My dad is from Llanelli originally and my mum is English so it’s a split household,” he said. “Him being a Scarlets fan for most of his life, me playing for the Dragons is a weird one for him.

“When I was younger, I probably used to go and watch Wales a lot more than England.

"One, it was closer, and also because my dad was a big influence on me, but in the World Cup I was probably supporting England.”

Griffiths and the rest of the Dragons are out in Russia for Friday's European clash with Enisei-STM.

Many would expect the Dragons to make it two wins from two in the Challenge Cup, but they have come a cropper in Russia before.

“It’s a different culture,” he added. “Some of the boys have been there before but it’s new to others.

“I don’t really know what to expect – I can imagine it’s going to be cold. We take every game seriously, no matter who the opposition is, and they’re a good team.

“We know what they are going to bring. They’ll be really physical and probably try to disrupt our game quite a lot.”