IF BERNARD Jackman had his time again then perhaps the former head coach wouldn't have made Ross Moriarty the statement signing of his first Dragons recruitment drive in 2018.

The quality of the Lions tourist has never been up for debate but pushing the boat out to lure the Wales star from Gloucester was always a questionable decision.

The Dragons had other areas of need and have never had a problem in producing back row forwards, a point emphasised by the remarkable rise that following pre-season of Aaron Wainwright, who has himself been followed by Taine Basham.

Criticising the move has never been personal – Moriarty is a terrific player – but signing him on a bumper deal was bad business… initially.

Circumstances change and suddenly brining in the 25-year-old could represent extremely good work.

If the Dragons can retain the services of Moriarty, whose contract expires this summer, then they will pay 20p of every £1 that he earns with the Welsh Rugby Union instead picking up most of the tab.

Even when you could field a starting trio of Wainwright, Basham and Ollie Griffiths with a glut of others waiting in the wings, that makes keeping hold of the abrasive number eight a no-brainer.

Get him for another two seasons and the Dragons will be able to reflect on a reasonable four-year outlay to secure the services of one of Europe's best back rowers.

South Wales Argus:

Moriarty is unfairly judged differently to others, and I'll hold my hands up to doing that in the past.

A marquee signing has his wages divided by games played to represent his value in a way that doesn't happen for others, especially if they are homegrown.

Who has been better value over the past two seasons, Swansea-based Moriarty or Newbridge's Griffiths, who has been plagued by injury misfortune?

A new long-term contract for Griffiths – a player with the ability to not just play at Test level but star at it – was rightly celebrated but its value depends on the dynamic back rower getting the rub of the green to avoid the treatment table.

The 24-year-old has played 20 games in the past two seasons, 19 for the Dragons plus an outing off the bench for Wales against the Barbarians.

Moriarty has racked up 40 appearances since heading for the Dragons – 17 for club and 23 for country – and his post-World Cup performances were excellent.

The confrontational forward seems to be thriving under Dean Ryan, who was himself a no-nonsense (some would suggest dirty!) player on the pitch.

The director of rugby appears to know what buttons to press and reaped the rewards of giving Moriarty plenty of time to get right after suffering from illness on his return from Japan.

It would have been easy for Ryan to look at the number eight's wage slip, chuck him a packet of ibuprofen and fling him out there in the key Euro double-header with Worcester.

But the boss' patience paid off with Moriarty returning with an impact off the bench against the Scarlets and then leading the charge against Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.

Moriarty is undoubtedly on a good wage at the Dragons but those displays were evidence that he isn't just going through the motions.

He didn't hit his high standards at the end of last season but that was for a team without a permanent boss and in poor form.

South Wales Argus:

Now he is happy on and off the field, although he'd be happier if he gets Wainwright's 6 jersey against France next weekend after impressing off the bench in the first two rounds of the Six Nations.

That's down to the Dragons being on the up under Ryan, even if the new boss is quick to point out that there is plenty of hard work to be done.

"I have enjoyed the way that he wants us to play rugby and I think that showed over the block of games over Christmas," said Moriarty ahead of the Ireland game when asked by the Argus about life at the Dragons.

"I felt that I was back to my old self and was just going out there and really enjoying my rugby. Dean plays quite fluent rugby and it's enjoyable to play."

Moriarty seems keen to stay at the Dragons, the Dragons are definitely keen for him to stay… yet it's out of their hands.

They need a bit of help from the Welsh Rugby Union and for a slightly bizarre process to go their way.

Moriarty and teammate Cory Hill are in dispute with the governing body over their valuations that have been set by a panel.

They feel worthy of more money and have lodged appeals, with the support of the Dragons.

They join a list of players to have gone through the dispute process – Rodney Parade teammates Ashton Hewitt and Sam Davies were among those to do the same last year – and it is a situation that calls into question the panel and wage banding method, which was brought in to try and prevent salaries getting out of control.

South Wales Argus:

But it now has created a situation where 43-times capped Moriarty has to weigh up staying at the Dragons and continuing to play for Wales or accepting an offer from England or France and putting his Test career on hold.

The latter would be galling for the Rodney Parade region, who are starting to see the best of a player who they brought home from Gloucester to feature in 23 of 25 possible Tests (missing just the World Cup warm-up against Ireland in Cardiff and when he was an unused replacement against Tonga in November 2018).

Perhaps the WRU panel felt in a position of strength to go a little low with the offer given Wales back row riches. They would point out that it's still a sizeable offer.

But it's a risky business to rely on the red jersey given the way that professional rugby players fly into each other throughout their short careers.

It's impossible not to take it personally if the wage offer comes in way below expectations.

The Dragons, unable to offer any sweeteners, just have to helplessly wait and hope that Moriarty wins his appeal and puts pen to paper, able to enjoy his rugby at Rodney Parade and get to the magical 60-cap mark that will make the next contract decision so much easier.