DRAGONS hooker Elliot Dee has been backed to win back his Wales spot ahead of next year's World Cup thanks to a summer off and a full pre-season.

The 28-year-old from Newbridge has been overlooked for the July tour to South Africa after a frustrating season.

Dee made 12 Dragons appearances but was hindered by niggling injuries and also received a suspension after being red-carded for a dangerous ruck clear-out in January.

The front rower – who became a key figure for Wales as Ken Owens' back-up under Warren Gatland – was limited to a solitary international outing as a late replacement in the autumn win over Australia.

Wayne Pivac has opted to take Ryan Elias, Dewi Lake and Sam Parry to South Africa for the three Tests.

Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan believes that 41-times capped Dee and his Wales teammates Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright can profit from a summer off.

South Wales Argus: Dragons and Wales hooker Elliot DeeDragons and Wales hooker Elliot Dee

"Wayne is keen for Elliot to get a pre-season and we have to remember that some of these guys haven't had a pre-season for a while, we can really utilise that time over the summer," said Ryan.

"Elliot is fully aware that he has got to get consistent games to change what Wayne sees in him. We have talked about keeping the things that he is good at and adapting to the things that Wayne wants so that he gets back into the international team."

Ryan believes Dee had a strong finish to the season thanks to the performances of on-loan Scarlets front rower Taylor Davies.

Things should go up a notch next season when Bradley Roberts, another Wales hopeful, arrives from Ulster.

"There is no doubt that the biggest driver for people improving is competition and Elliot had a great response to the challenge of Taylor," said Ryan.

"Towards the end of the season was the best I had seen him play in the last two or three years, albeit not with the consistency of appearances.

"Competition, being fit and having a huge pre-season behind him will give Elliot the chance of being the best version of himself, and there are a number of our guys that will benefit from that."