THE Dragons are without powerhouse Wales tighthead Leon Brown in South Africa but competition remains fierce thanks to the progress made by Luke Yendle.

The plan was initially for the 23-year-old to move on loan to Ampthill in the English Championship but that changed due to summer injuries.

Chris Coleman suffered a hamstring strain blow in pre-season while Brown has continued to be plagued by niggles.

That led to Yendle coming off the bench against Edinburgh and Leinster in the United Rugby Championship either side of a first Dragons start in Munster while Lloyd Fairbrother was on Wales duty against the Barbarians.

South Wales Argus: Dragons prop Luke YendleDragons prop Luke Yendle (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

His performance in Cork, where Nathan Evans came off the bench for a debut, was strong and has given the Rodney Parade club a timely boost while Brown endures more frustration.

The 23-times capped prop is undoubtedly the Dragons’ best tighthead but his durability has caused problems in recent years.

Brown had neck surgery last season and failed to get the green light for the double-header in South Africa, with his absence listed as a calf strain.

That has piled the pressure on stalwart Fairbrother with Coleman, who came off the bench against the Ospreys last weekend, and Yendle his fellow tourists.

The scrum went well in the 20-5 derby win in Newport but things will go up a notch in South Africa against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday then the Lions in Johannesburg.

However, the growth of Yendle, on and off the pitch, has provided the Dragons with a timely boost.

“We know in Welsh rugby that we have to give time to certain positions and tighthead prop is one of them,” said head coach Dai Flanagan.

“An outside back can break through at 19 or 20 while a front row forward it can become 23, 24, 25.

South Wales Argus: Dragons prop Luke Yendle (centre) with Leon Brown and Chris Coleman in South Africa last seasonDragons prop Luke Yendle (centre) with Leon Brown and Chris Coleman in South Africa last season (Image: Huw Evans Agency)“Luke has played quite a bit of rugby and, after a season with Jersey, we had a plan for him to go to Ampthill.

“That has changed and he has been superb, not just with his performances but his training level and how he is testing our looseheads in training.

“What I liked was that there was a change in him when he was called back from Ampthill. I really liked his attitude of ‘you’re not going to send me out again, I’m here to stay’.”

Yendle remains fourth in the depth chart behind 25-year-old Coleman, who has made 51 Dragons appearances to close in on Brown’s 68.

Fairbrother is well ahead on 168 – a tally that puts him six on the club’s all-time list and ahead of any other prop.

“Luke’s challenge is to beat Chris, then Chris’ challenge is to beat Leon and Lloyd,” said Flanagan. “We need that in-house competition.”

Novice loosehead Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths is in the touring party to provide back-up to Rhodri Jones and Aki Seiuli on the other side of the scrum due to injuries to Argentina prop Rodrigo Martinez and Josh Reynolds, who is back from a short-term loan at Cardiff.

Wales hooker Elliot Dee has not travelled due to a rib injury so James Benjamin and Brodie Coghlan back-up Bradley Roberts on his return to South Africa.