HARRI Ackerman’s rise to the Dragons first team was so surprising that even the teenage centre didn’t clock his name on the team sheet, but now he’s hungry for more.

The 19-year-old from Newbridge will be a key figure for Wales in the U20s Six Nations over the coming weeks after being picked as captain following injury misfortune for his Rodney Parade teammate Ryan Woodman.

Ackerman reported for international duty with four Dragons appearances to his name after his debut off the bench against Oyonnax and then starts against the Scarlets, Zebre Parma and the Sharks.

He has always been marked as one to watch but a debut as an 18-year-old was surprising given the circumstances.

The centre spent the summer on the comeback trail from a shoulder injury suffered in the Premiership Cup final at Principality Stadium with Newport.

A planned return for the Black and Ambers at the start of December was postponed because of a frozen pitch and then the next weekend he was caught by surprise in a team meeting when head coach Dai Flanagan unveiled the line-up for the Challenge Cup opener.

“I didn’t expect it all, I didn’t even see my name on the teamsheet against Oyonnax until one of the boys nudged me,” said Ackerman.

“It’s been nice to get a few games under my belt. I didn’t think that it would happen this soon, or this many games.”

South Wales Argus: IMPRESSIVE: Harri Ackerman on his full Dragons debut against the ScarletsIMPRESSIVE: Harri Ackerman on his full Dragons debut against the Scarlets (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Ackerman has impressed despite being up against some formidable centres with Wales international Johnny Williams in the Scarlets midfield and then a World Cup winner at 13 for the Sharks.

“It was nerve-racking going up against Lukhanyo Am – one of the best centres in the world,” said the youngster. “It was just a case of calming down and concentrating on the rugby.”

Ackerman and fellow bright prospect Joe Westwood, who made his debut off the bench against the South Africans, should get more opportunities in the second half of the season.

Next season they will be frontline options along with Aneurin Owen, Jack Dixon and club captain Steff Hughes, who is a key figure in their development.

“Steff is amazing,” said Ackerman. “He knows a lot and is a good coach – if you ever have a question, ask and he will explain things properly.”

Ackerman appears to be built for the pro game – “I am a physical centre, but I can’t just be one-dimensional” – but is happy to get minutes in the jerseys of Wales, Newport and the Dragons to keep progressing.

“I want to try to play as many games as I can rather than just learning from training,” he said.

“I know there is stuff that I need to work on, but I am aiming to learn as much as I can this season to become a better player.”

Ackerman, who missed last summer’s World Rugby U20 Championship because of his shoulder injury, is one of six young Dragons in the Wales squad for the Six Nations.

Full-back Huw Anderson, wings Harry Rees-Weldon and Walker Price, prop Jordan Morris and lock Nick Thomas are also included along with Ebbw Vale back rower Owen Conquer.

Wales kick off their campaign against Scotland in Colwyn Bay on Friday (kick-off 6.45pm) then travel to England and Ireland. They finish against France and Italy at Cardiff Arms Park in March.