IT was only in the aftermath of a humiliating defeat in Russia that the careers of two Dragons locks really separated from the same trajectory.

The region had just been humbled 38-18 by Enisei-STM in Krasnodar when Cory Hill was given a call-up by Wales for the autumn internationals.

He would make his Test debut against Australia and go on to become a mainstay of Warren Gatland’s pack until the injury suffered when helping secure the Grand Slam last year.

While Hill became a firm fixture on the international scene, captaining Wales against Argentina in 2018, one of his teammates has settled for becoming one of the first names on the Dragons’ teamsheet.

Matthew Screech has been an unsung hero for the region for several seasons but perhaps he will really come to the fore after the departure of a player who he has packed down with for over a decade.

South Wales Argus:

Screech joined the Dragons from Bedwas in the summer of 2013 soon after his release by Cardiff Blues, achieving his aim of a full-time contract well ahead of schedule.

Just months later Hill arrived at Rodney Parade after a short spell with Moseley after also being cut by the Arms Park side.

The pair played age-grade rugby together and hail from Rhondda Cynon Taf, Hill from Maesycoed, a Neil Jenkins punt away from Sardis Road, and Screech from nearby Porth.

Both established themselves as Dragons regulars but it still came as something as a surprise when Hill was called up by caretaker Wales boss Rob Howley in 2016.

It proved to be the making of the lock and his game has grown impressively, making it a huge blow when he told the Dragons that he will leave this summer.

South Wales Argus:

Hill will return to the capital and is no doubt fuelled by the desire to prove a point at the club where he first aimed of making it as a pro.

It is an excellent signing by Cardiff Blues, one that could be transformational for their pack outside Test windows. He will provide direction and clarity that they have often lacked.

Hill fancies a change in the same way that Sam Davies did last summer when moving from the Ospreys to the Dragons.

Unlike the fly-half, the lock hasn’t gone stale at his region or grown frustrated but he wants to push on in what should be the best years of his career.

He believes the Blues is the best place to do that and only the most partisan Dragon would deny it’s currently an upgrade.

Sure, the Arms Park side have not exactly hit the lofty targets they set – last summer boss John Mulvihill rather ambitiously told his squad to push for the Cardiff City Stadium grand final – but they have consistently outperformed the Rodney Parade region.

This season has provided long-awaited encouragement under Dean Ryan but it’s still only a start and progress needs to be slow and steady at the Dragons.

Hill will be joining a Blues squad with greater depth in what could be a very, very long season.

His departure means that the Dragons arguably need not just one more lock but two, or it could even lead to an unexpected and, let’s face it, undeserved extension for Brandon Nansen.

But if a new bruiser arrives for next season then Screech should be thinking that they are coming in down the pecking order – he should be making sure he is the Dragons’ primary lock.

South Wales Argus:

The 27-year-old isn’t a player who could make a stunning highlights reel on YouTube but he is one who commands the respect of his teammates.

He is a strong operator at the lineout and has an impressive engine and appetite for graft; he finished 12th in this season’s PRO14 tackle chart, which was dominated by back rowers, with 125 and a 90 per cent completion rate.

He has grown year on year since heading for the Dragons, it’s just that he hasn’t quite had the sharp ramp on the hill-climb that Hill enjoyed courtesy of experiences with Wales.

Screech would be a fine addition for the squads of all three other regions but while he’d be deputy at the Scarlets, Ospreys and Blues, he has the chance to be the sheriff at the Dragons.

Like his mate Hill, the lock is approaching the prime years of his career as a second rower and can become a key component of a pack that is blessed with terrific options in the back row and has a much-improved front row.

Former Wales international Andrew Coombs said in February that his former teammate was unlucky to miss out on a Six Nations call-up.

Perhaps Screech will turn out to be one of those players who always seems to be on the cusp, just below Test level but the next few years presents a chance to him to really establish himself as a Rodney Parade great.

He’s been in Hill’s shadow for the past three-and-a-bit years but this is the opportunity for Screech to become the main man.

WHEN confirming Hill’s departure the WRU-owned Dragons said they had asked "the relevant bodies to look into the circumstances around the move".

In some ways it’s good to see the region willing to swing out when they feel wronged rather than meekly accepting their place at the bottom of the professional pile.

It’s not worth wasting energy on this fight – there is nothing to be gained from any investigation but director of rugby Ryan is right that the whole process needs to be slicker and swifter.

The new system of 38 chosen players having 80 per cent of their wages paid for by the Welsh Rugby Union makes Test players desirable.

The Dragons won’t want history to repeat when it comes to Elliot Dee, Leon Brown and Aaron Wainwright.