THE Dragons are hopeful that talented back rower Taine Basham will sign a new deal to hit the next level at Rodney Parade despite English interest.

The 24-year-old from Talywain will start the United Rugby Championship game at Ulster on Saturday night before returning to the Wales squad for the final two rounds of the Six Nations.

Basham is out of contract this summer and is yet to follow Test teammates Aaron Wainwright and Rio Dyer in signing fresh terms with the Dragons.

The dynamic forward, who can play across the back row, is on the radar of English champions Saracens and a move might be tempting given his place in the Wales pecking order.

Basham has won 17 caps so would be ineligible for Warren Gatland if he headed for the Premiership, but he is currently a fringe figure at international level.

The Dragons man is behind Jac Morgan and Tommy Reffell at openside, Wainwright has established himself at number eight in the absence of Taulupe Faletau and Cardiff talents Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin have broken through.

Basham has not started a Test since February 2022, was given three cameos at the World Cup, missed out on the uncapped Barbarians fixture and has only played 12 minutes in the Six Nations off the bench at Twickenham.

South Wales Argus: Wales and Dragons forward Taine Basham training at the World CupWales and Dragons forward Taine Basham training at the World Cup (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Nonetheless, he is a game-breaker and the Dragons are hopeful that he will sign up for at least two more years, develop his game and break back into the Wales fold.

“Things are ongoing but you can see from the smile on my face how much I enjoy working with Taine,” said head coach Dai Flanagan about contract talks.

“Taine has the ability to do stuff that no other back rower in Wales can,” he continued. “He can break a line, offload, carry, he is powerful and gets a lot of turnovers with rips.

“Taine's biggest asset for us needs to be his consistency, and we need to see that this weekend.

“He has had a good block with Wales, who build themselves on hard work. We are looking forward to seeing him come back, put our jersey on and work extremely hard for our group.”

Basham will make his sixth Dragons appearance of the campaign at Ravenhill.

He returned from the World Cup and was sent off against Leinster for a late hit that led to a four-game suspension.

Basham then paid the price for an under-par display in the hammering at Cardiff, although he was certainly not alone in letting standards slip.

South Wales Argus: STARS: Wales internationals Rio Dyer, Taine Basham, Elliot Dee and Aaron Wainwright in action for the DragonsSTARS: Wales internationals Rio Dyer, Taine Basham, Elliot Dee and Aaron Wainwright in action for the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“He needs to play some regular rugby now,” said Flanagan. “It's been a stop-start season for him since he came back from the World Cup with little injuries and then suspension.

“He is a young man and we need to support him and back him, giving him the opportunity to show the world what he can do because you don't get man of the match for Wales against New Zealand if you are not very good.”

Basham is likely to slot in at number eight at Ulster if the paperwork comes through for a short-term signing.

The Dragons are without Ryan Woodman (wrist) and George Young (torn pec) for the rest of the season, Harri Keddie (elbow), Ollie Griffiths (concussion) and lock/blindside George Nott (shoulder) are doubts for Ulster and Aaron Wainwright is with Wales.

“It will be a new player in our back row, he came in on Monday and has worked the house down,” said Flanagan. “We are looking forward to seeing him in a Dragons jersey and we have signed everything at our end.”