THE Dragons have pulled out all the stops to fight off English interest and agree a new two-year deal with Wales star Aaron Wainwright.

The dynamic back row forward has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Rodney Parade until at least 2026.

The 26-year-old from Bassaleg was on the radar of Premiership clubs, with Leicester, Bristol and Northampton leading the chase, but has turned down offers in favour of staying in Wales.

Wainwright would have remained eligible for Test rugby had he moved to England courtesy of his 43 caps but has followed fellow World Cup star Rio Dyer in commiting his immediate future to the Dragons.

They came up with the financial package to keep hold of their biggest name and head coach Dai Flanagan sold the dream of making strides over the next two years.

South Wales Argus: STAYING: Wales star Aaron Wainwright has signed a new Dragons dealSTAYING: Wales star Aaron Wainwright has signed a new Dragons deal (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“There is a lot of unfinished business for me here and, being a Gwent boy, I want to see how far we can go as a team,” said Wainwright.

“At this stage in my career, I am thinking what I will reflect on when I finish playing rugby.

“If I can leave my mark at the Dragons and continue to something that could be special over these next couple of years, then I will be able to look back on my time with great pride. I want to say I stuck at it and achieved something great at such a special place.

“I really think if we keep working the way we are as a team and collective, then we can start to do something over the next couple of years. That is something I am really excited about.

“We have a lot of young talent coming through here and I feel a number of the boys will be putting their hands up for the Welsh squad in the coming seasons. That is exciting.”

Wainwright enjoyed a rapid rise after making his Dragons debut in 2017 and brought up a century of appearances in the New Year’s Day win against the Scarlets.

The number eight, who can also play blindside, has grown into a talisman for his home club and is also a leading figure for his country.

South Wales Argus: LEADER: Dragons back row forward Aaron Wainwright on the charge against the ScarletsLEADER: Dragons back row forward Aaron Wainwright on the charge against the Scarlets (Image: Huw Evans Agency)Warren Gatland will be relieved that one of his key players has stayed in Wales and will remain in camp in international periods for full preparation.

Meanwhile, the Dragons have made a statement of intent and avoided Wainwright, for now at least, following the likes of Luke Charteris, Taulupe Faletau and Dan Lydiate in leaving for a fresh challenge.

Flanagan: “Aaron’s influence at our club grows season on season, he has been playing outstandingly well for us and his best rugby years are ahead of him.

“Aaron’s future has attracted interest around world rugby, such has been his impact with us and Wales in recent times.

“His decision to continue his journey with Dragons is an endorsement of what we are building and underlines his passion to play for his home club.

“Aaron is a proud Gwent man who wants success here and who firmly believes he can become a better player and achieve his aspirations with us.”

With Welsh clubs operating with a salary cap of £4.5million next season, the Dragons have used up a fair chunk of their budget on Wainwright and Dyer.

Six Nations squad members Taine Basham and Leon Brown are out of contract this summer.

Flanagan has previously spoken about the need to make tough decisions to balance the books, with Gonzalo Bertranou and Sio Tomkinson the most high-profile players approaching the end of deals.