IT was during the Six Nations that Aaron Wainwright realised the rest of the season with the Dragons was no longer about trying to impress Warren Gatland in the quest for international action this summer but Wayne Pivac.

The back row forward’s rapid rise had led to him being talked about as a contender for the British and Irish Lions after the 2019 World Cup.

The 23-year-old had been a mainstay of the end of the Gatland era but has found himself on the fringes for Wales under Pivac, a victim of the back row strength.

Wainwright featured just twice in the Six Nations, a late inclusion at Scotland because of Josh Macleod’s injury misfortune and an outing off the bench against Italy.

Wainwright was at the back of the picture when captain Alun Wyn Jones lifted the Six Nations trophy at their Vale Resort training base.

South Wales Argus: BACKGROUND: Aaron Wainwright on the back row behind captain Alun Wyn JonesBACKGROUND: Aaron Wainwright on the back row behind captain Alun Wyn Jones

However, the 2021 triumph felt very different to the glory in 2019 when the Dragons man played in every game on the way to a Grand Slam.

“I was delighted to see the boys play well and I was delighted to come away with the Championship, but I didn’t put my best foot forward in the Six Nations,” he admitted.

“I was involved in 2019 but this was different. Not being involved, you want to train well as you can just to put the team in the best place possible for the game at the weekend.

“It’s about the team at the end of the day and then trying to put you best foot forward to impress if you get the chance.

“When I got my opportunity I didn’t take it with both hands, so I am looking to carry on playing well for the Dragons, get a chance this summer and try to impress.

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind. First and foremost you want to play well for the Dragons but I am also thinking about playing well so that I can put my hand up for selection this summer.”

South Wales Argus:

Wainwright’s ability with ball in hand has led to Pivac looking at him as a number eight to put the pressure on Taulupe Faletau yet it’s in defence that the Dragons man has been told to make strides by the Wales boss.

He intends to take a leaf out of teammate Ross Moriarty’s book by being destructive without the ball.

“I need to be more consistent and be a bit better defensively,” said Wainwright. “Wayne sees that as a part of my game that I can improve and I definitely agree with that.

“It’s my physicality across the park, dominating collisions and getting over the ball to be a bit better in that area.

“Other than that, Wayne is happy with how I have been playing and as long as I keep doing what I have been doing, along with developing on my defensive side of the game, then hopefully he will pick up on that.”

Wainwright may still be in double figures for senior appearances but he has been charged with being a leader for the Dragons in the Rainbow Cup.

That role was a formal one against the Ospreys on Sunday when he was named as captain by director of rugby Dean Ryan.

Wainwright has been in superb form since returning from the Six Nations but is being kept on his toes by Moriarty, Taine Basham, Ollie Griffiths, Harrison Keddie and Dan Baker.

South Wales Argus:

“There is so much strength at the Dragons, let alone international level. The more strength in depth the more you test each other,” he said.

“If you are not at the top of your game then you might not be starting the week after. That creates a sense in the squad of always trying to play the best that you can, if you don’t make any slip-ups then you will always be in the team.”

The Dragons finish the Rainbow Cup with a clash against Glasgow at Cardiff City Stadium on May 29 before a final game of a long season at Leinster on June 11.