RICHARD Hibbard still has the hunger to battle the young upstarts for the 2 jersey at the Dragons as he prepares for a 17th season as a professional.

The former Wales and Lions front row forward arrived from Gloucester on a three-year contract in the summer of 2018.

The 36-year-old has been a mainstay of the front row since heading for Rodney Parade, racking up 36 appearances over a season and a half.

The Dragons will continue to lean heavily on Hibbard next season given that a Test-heavy schedule will lead to the frequent absence of 26-year-old Wales hooker Elliot Dee.

But the hard-hitting veteran, who will be pushed by up-and-coming Ellis Shipp, is relishing more battles for the 2 jersey.

South Wales Argus:

“People look at age and stuff with the body but if you look at the four years I was with Gloucester I played 100 games,” Hibbard, who turns 37 in December, said on the BBC’s Scrum V podcast.

“I came here at the ripe old age of 34 but it's not that old – I'm already in the 30s for appearances with the Dragons after a season and a half.

“The playing aspect is fine with the body, retirement comes when you start losing a step or lose the hunger for the game and the competition. That's still inside me with abundance.

“If your body can still do it, as long as you have the mental aspect to go with it (you can carry on).

“Competition is part of it, you still want to beat these youngsters, you still don't want them to dominate you.

“As long as you are constantly fighting them and not letting them beat you, happy days.

The day that you give up and go 'oh, it's alright', that's the day that you go back to the locker.”

South Wales Argus:

Hibbard is currently training at home in Port Talbot – he has posted videos of lineout throwing from his garden – and will soon return to group work as the Dragons prepare for potential derby fixtures in August.

"I find recovery is the hardest part now," he admitted. "My mind wants to keep going, keep going, keep going but then it's just getting back on the horse the next day to keep going and going. It takes a while but then you are off again.”

The veteran missed the fixtures against Castres, Enisei-STM, Glasgow and the Cheetahs after suffering a bump to the neck in the January 4 win against his old Ospreys club but is ready to go again.

"It was a massive blessing in disguise because I picked up a knock at Christmas time,” said Hibbard.

"It's given me the perfect opportunity to recover and my body does feel great... I haven't started running yet, mind! My lungs might argue with that!"

The Dragons have released hooker Rhys Lawrence and Will Griffiths, leaving 19-year-old academy prospect Brodie Coghlan as the next in line for 2020/21.

A permanent signing at hooker isn’t a priority although it is likely that a loan deal would be investigated if there was an injury to Hibbard, Dee or Shipp.

Hibbard discusses fitness, his future, rugby league and Wales' 60-cap rule - Scrum V podcast