TEENAGER Ryan Woodman became the first Dragons starter to have been born after the club’s first ever game when he lined up at blindside flanker against Munster last Saturday.

It was a tough evening in Cork but the Wales Under-20s captain, born in February, 2004, provided more glimpses of why he is rated so highly.

The Dragons gave the 19-year-old, who scored a try from Dane Blacker's inch-perfect kick, an extended break after his summer exertions in the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Woodman was kept away from collisions in pre-season and had clean-ups on a shoulder and knees to freshen him up for 2023/24, with the plan to bulk him up for the physical demands of being a lock/back rower in the professional game.

We will keep seeing flashes of the promising prospect over the course of the season, but hopefully not too much.

South Wales Argus: TRY: Ryan Woodman crossed for the Dragons on his first startTRY: Ryan Woodman crossed for the Dragons on his first start (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The danger of small budgets in Welsh rugby is that young talent is introduced too soon and there are plenty of examples of players in their teens or early 20s being hindered by rapid rises.

Some can take it in their stride – 22-year-old lock Ben Carter has already amassed 50 Dragons appearances and won 11 caps – but it’s a gamble.

Small squads risk clubs leaning too heavily on young talent when they should be learning their trade in the Premiership.

Is it really a good experience for wing Ewan Rosser, tighthead Nathan Evans and lock Barny Langton-Cryer to be flung in for debuts at Munster through necessity due to injuries and international calls?

They joined Woodman, Will Reed, Luke Yendle, Brodie Coughlan and George Young in an inexperienced matchday squad.


The Dragons probably got away with it last weekend when it was ‘only’ 45-14 but it could have been ugly had the Irish province gone fully-loaded for the Musgrave Park fixture.

It’s far better to drip-feed opportunities, ideally putting the prospects into a side featuring seasoned campaigners rather than having to call on them during times of crisis.

However, the performance of Woodman in the absence of Dan Lydiate, Aaron Wainwright, Harri Keddie, Ollie Griffiths and Sean Lonsdale gave head coach Dai Flanagan food for thought.

“We need to make sure we expose Ryan at the right times throughout the year but I would say that he took his chance to show that he can play at this level,” said the boss.

“He is definitely a regional player now and will be selected on merit, but he won’t be burned out.”

Woodman could keep his spot in the 23 to face Leinster despite the return from Wales duty of Lydiate and Wainwright to join Taine Basham