WHEN Aneurin Owen took to the field at Ravenhill, only six of his teammates had more Dragons appearances to their name than his 42.

The talented centre is still only 23 and has his best years ahead of him, but there has been a mindset shift.

Owen has long been considered as a player with a bright future by Dragons coaches but he is no longer the up-and comer.

In midfield Harri Ackerman and Joe Westwood have made strides after making professional debuts this season while the likes of Ryan Woodman, Ewan Rosser, Brodie Coghlan, Barny Langton-Cryer, Huw Anderson and Che Hope are learning the ropes.

“I don’t consider myself to be one of the younger players anymore,” said Owen. “I’ve tried to move away from that tag and I am an established senior player in the squad.

“When younger, you can sometimes get away with one or two things because you are inexperienced and new to the game.

“From a mindset point of view, I have completely got rid of that because I need to be performing week in, week out.

“I need to put in good performances, train really well and be tough on myself; you have to keep pushing on or you will be left behind.”

South Wales Argus: Dragons centre Aneurin Owen on the chargeDragons centre Aneurin Owen on the charge (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Ackerman’s progress has been stalled after the 19-year-old suffered a broken leg for Wales Under-20s but he will be back after the summer, while 20-year-old Westwood is likely to get more chances in the run-in.

“They are class, really good young players, and that keeps you on your toes,” said Owen, who started in midfield with captain Steff Hughes at Ulster last time out.

“The competition has been massive since I’ve come through and if you don’t have it then you could get comfortable and plateau. You need players behind and in front pushing you.”

Owen was tipped for Test rugby when he broke through and he was called up for the summer Tests against Canada and Argentina in 2021.

He has been hindered by injury – a broken ankle, a hamstring strain, serious knee damage – but this season has strung together the games.

The centre has featured 10 times for Dai Flanagan’s side and, touch wood, could end the campaign with his most amount of appearances in a season.

Owen believes he is profited from regular game time: “You don't realise how much you have missed and how long it will take to get back to feeling really good about how you are playing and fitness.

“Having a run of games and my body feeling good makes a massive difference. I feel I am in a really good place.”

South Wales Argus: Dragons centre Aneurin OwenDragons centre Aneurin Owen (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Owen’s USP is his distribution and ability to play close to the defensive line but the former age-grade fly-half is keen to keep adding to his game.

“I see my ball-playing as a strength but I’ve been trying to work on defence and my collisions,” he said.

“As a 12 you need to be physically able to compete and I have also worked on my attacking footwork and carrying.”

Owen is set to be a key figure in the run-in as the Dragons scrap with the Sharks, Zebre Parma and Scarlets to avoid finishing bottom of the URC.

The South Africans currently prop up the table with Dai Flanagan’s side hosting the Italians at the end of the month and finishing against their Welsh rivals at Judgement Day.

“We don't want to finish bottom of the table and need to pick up results by putting performances in,” said Owen.

“This season we have only beaten Welsh regions other than Oyonnax in Europe, so it would be nice to get some other scalps “We have let ourselves down as a squad with a couple of games but we have the last block to give a good account of ourselves and get results.

“We are still learning and want to get to a point when we are winning regularly and being really competitive in the URC. This league has a high standard and it’s up to us to catch up and string some results together.”

The Dragons return to action a week on Saturday when they host the Bulls and they welcome Zebre to Rodney Parade the following Friday (both kick-offs 7.35pm)