DRAGONS centre Joe Westwood is a young man built to make a big impact in the United Rugby Championship next season, believes boss Dai Flanagan.

The 20-year-old is a contender for a start in the season finale against the Scarlets at the Cardiff City Judgement Day on June 1.

Westwood made a huge impression after coming on for the final quarter of last weekend’s 26-13 loss to the Ospreys in Swansea.

The former Wales Under-20s international carried six times, made two line breaks and beat three defenders in the URC derby.

Westwood’s progress has been stalled by injury misfortune but he made his Dragons debut against the Sharks in January and has racked up eight appearances while also helping Newport RFC to the final of the Premiership.

Head coach Dai Flanagan believes the youngster, whose full debut was at wing against Ulster in Belfast, has the attributes to be a serious threat at outside centre.

South Wales Argus: STRONG: Joe Westwood carries hard for the Dragons at UlsterSTRONG: Joe Westwood carries hard for the Dragons at Ulster (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It’s just his physicality, his size, speed and power – that’s the modern game,” said the former fly-half.

“He is a big man with an offload game. Imagine him and [wing] Chris Hollis in the channels and then teams will have to worry about us with offloads feeding the likes of Rio Dyer.”

The Dragons are set to have fierce competition for midfield starts next season with Westwood fighting it out for the 13 jersey with new recruit Harry Wilson, although the Australian is also an option at full-back.

Wales Under-20s captain Harri Ackerman will push Aneurin Owen at inside centre while club captain Steff Hughes can play both positions.

Whoever gets the nod, Flanagan wants to be dynamic in midfield.

“I am a purist and love the fact that rugby can be played by all shapes and sizes; I have the debate in my head about whether rugby is a ball movement game or a collision game,” he said.

“Fundamentally, the way the game is at the moment is that it is a collision sport. You can see what we have done with our summer signings to add to that part of our game.”

The Dragons have given Westwood, Ackerman and speedster Ewan Rosser a first taste of professional rugby this season.

Blindside/lock Ryan Woodman was given a pair of cameos in 2022/23 and has pushed on again, albeit a thumb injury in January set him back.

“We have to get our timing right with the youngsters,” said Flanagan. “We have managed them very well so that they won’t be youngsters any more next season, they will be exceptional players for us.”