HE may come from a family with rich Gwent rugby history but Joe Westwood is making a name for himself under his own steam after a breakthrough season for the Dragons.

The 20-year-old from Blackwood will be one to watch when the Rodney Parade club finish their campaign against the Scarlets at Cardiff City Stadium Judgement Day.

Westwood has earned a starting spot thanks to a mightily impressive outing off the bench for the final quarter of the defeat to the Ospreys last time out.

The centre made his debut against the Sharks in January and will finish the season with nine appearances, ready to kick on in 2024/25.

Combined with 10 outings for Newport RFC, who he helped to the final of the Premiership, it has been a year of progress for a promising back whose progress was stalled by ankle surgery, a fractured wrist and a broken leg.

South Wales Argus: TALENT: Joe Westwood has broken through at the DragonsTALENT: Joe Westwood has broken through at the Dragons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It’s been a good season,” said Westwood, who has signed a three-year contract. “I had a strong start with Newport but was the out for a couple of months with injury, after that it was nice to get back and play nearly every week.

“That’s been ideal and what I needed. A lot of us youngsters have had opportunities because of the squad size.

“That’s exactly what we want and then when we haven’t been playing for the Dragons we have been getting game time in the Premiership.”

Westwood has the physical attributes to be a success at professional level, plus the ball-playing skills courtesy of his background in age-grade rugby as a fly-half/full-back.

The youngster has earned this opportunity through his hard work, but he doesn’t have to look far for inspiration.

One grandfather, Keith Westwood, played for Ebbw Vale and Newbridge plus wore the 12 jersey for the Abertillery and Ebbw Vale side that lost 13-0 to the All Blacks in 1963.

After hanging up his boots Westwood coached Abercarn, ‘Bridge, the Steelmen, Newport and Monmouthshire.

His other grandfather on his mother’s side is Allan Lewis, who played for Abertillery and Newport.

The scrum-half won six caps for Wales and toured Australia and New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 1966.

South Wales Argus: Jonathan Westwood helped Cross Keys to glory at Principality StadiumJonathan Westwood helped Cross Keys to glory at Principality Stadium

Joe’s father Jonathan represented Wales at Under-21s level and was called up by the national squad, while at club level he played most notably for Newbridge, Newport, Cardiff and Neath.

A serious knee injury ended his career early but he followed his father’s route into coaching and was Cross Keys director of rugby when they lifted the WRU National Cup in 2012.

Joe has following in their footsteps – “they never pushed me into the game but I have watched rugby since I was a kid and have enjoyed it” – and aims to show more signs of progress at Judgement Day.

“It’s a big occasion and hopefully we can finish the season on a good note. I’ll hopefully get lots of involvements and enjoy it,” he said.

“There will be lots of young talent from across all the regions playing – there are nine of us Dragons who are under 24.”

South Wales Argus: POWERFUL: Joe Westwood on the charge for the Dragons at UlsterPOWERFUL: Joe Westwood on the charge for the Dragons at Ulster (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The Rodney Parade club are excited about bringing through those promising prospects but it presents its challenges as they try and avoid players being over-hyped.

The Dragons have slowly introduced Westwood, Harri Ackerman, Ryan Woodman while scrum-halves Che Hope and Morgan Lloyd were held back and told to rack up the minutes in the Premiership.

“We have given Joe enough rugby to make sure he is on an upward curve. Now is the time for him to experience a Judgement Day so that over the summer he goes after it fully,” said head coach Dai Flanagan.

“We should be excited about him because physically he is unbelievable while he played 10 as a kid so has a fantastic skill set to play in midfield.

“We see him as a 13 but if we want to change the way we play – like Wales did with Mason Grady against Italy when they stuck him at 12 to give some go-forward – then Joe can do that.”