RICHARD Hibbard hasn’t even considered hanging up his boots as he enters the final months of his Dragons contract – but he knows that he needs to impress if he is to stay at Rodney Parade.

The former Wales and Lions hooker headed to Newport from Gloucester on a three-year deal in the summer of 2018.

The 37-year-old is set to make his 50th appearance for the Dragons against Connacht on Friday evening and will be a key figure in the Guinness PRO14 run-in while Elliot Dee is on Six Nations duty.

Hibbard made his Ospreys debut in September 2004 and believes the coronavirus pandemic means he will still be in condition to play professionally 17 years later.

“With the breaks this year, it’s re-energised me,” he said. “It’s the same with Dean (Ryan, director of rugby) coming in at the Dragons, I like what he has started here. I’m really enjoying it, it’s good to be part of and if I can then I would like to carry on.

“My body is feeling fine, really good actually with all these breaks – maybe even surprising the physios! I am really enjoying it and hope I can continue.

“Everyone would like to retire on their own terms but I haven’t even thought of it, my body feels that good so it’s just about ploughing on and keeping on performing.”

South Wales Argus:

In past years it was Hibbard that called the shots in contract negotiations but this time he needs to earn an offer.

With Ellis Shipp on the up and Dee first choice, the veteran certainly can’t demand the same financial package that he did when signed by Bernard Jackman.

The Dragons have a block of seven games in seven weeks and Hibbard can do his chances of another year the power of good.

“It’s about going out there and performing every week,” he said. “With potential budget constraints squads are getting smaller.

“If you don’t perform and take your chance then it will come up on you quickly. I do feel for boys in rugby during the current situation, not just here but in England and all over the place.

“It is a difficult world, so when the boys get the chance to perform they have got to go out there and take it.”

South Wales Argus:

Hibbard will be to the fore as the Dragons attempt to finish the PRO14 strongly and reel in his former Ospreys teammates in the race for next season’s Champions Cup.

The region returned to the premier competition for the first time in a decade only for their hopes hit by six late withdrawals from the matchday squad to face Wasps because of a pair of positive coronavirus tests.

An inexperienced side was beaten at Bordeaux-Begles then the return fixtures were scratched.

“Everyone knows the Champions Cup is a massive occasion and getting to play in those games in big stadiums is an experience in itself, so it was so disappointing that it’s come this year with Covid, no crowds and games being cancelled,” said Hibbard.

“I don’t believe we got the true experience of it and I think the boys had a little tiny taste of it and want it even more now, to experience those big games in the big stadiums in front of those big crowds.”

The Dragons have seven games left, five on home soil.

“It’s about time now we push on and get in our stride,” said Hibbard. “Seven straight games is going to be tough but the boys are really looking forward to it.

“The season has been stop-start and now we have a good solid block to get our teeth stuck into.”