DRAGONS winger Ashton Hewitt could make a rapid return in the first block of next season’s United Rugby Championship.

The 29-year-old from Newport has been sidelined since rupturing ligaments in his right knee in training ahead of the New Year’s Day derby win against the Scarlets.

Hewitt, who is joint second on the Dragons’ all-time try list with 36 scores, previously went 18 months without competitive rugby after a serious injury to his other knee in the act of scoring against Northampton at Rodney Parade in April, 2021.

The speedster’s lay-off will be considerably shorter this time - it was initially feared that he could be out until the winter - and might only miss a handful of games at the start of the 2024/25 URC.

“Ashton is flying and will aim to be back at the end of September or start of October,” said head coach Dai Flanagan.

“He has been working his tail off and is a tremendous professional, so ideally we will get him back for a game in that first block of six fixtures.

“Ashton cares so much about this region and wants to succeed, so he is desperate to get back on the field after such a frustrating injury just as he was getting back to his best.”

BLOW: Ashton Hewitt ruptured knee ligaments at the end of last yearBLOW: Ashton Hewitt ruptured knee ligaments at the end of last year (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Hewitt will join Wales wing Rio Dyer, the Rosser brothers Jared and Ewan and up-and-coming Oli Andrew as an option out wide next season.

Wales Under-20s internationals Harry Rees-Weldon and Huw Anderson, who made his URC debut at Ulster last season, will aim to push for chances by shining in Super Rygbi Cymru with Ebbw Vale and Pontypool.

Full-back Jordan Williams can also fill in out wide while David Richards, who returned from a serious hamstring tear with Newport RFC at the end of last season, is in talks over a fresh deal.

However, Hewitt’s return would add to the Dragons’ cutting edge as he attempts to chase down record try scorer Aled Brew (43).

“Ashton is a power runner who comes off his wing and carries hard off 9 and 10,” said Flanagan. “He has the ability to beat the first defender time after time.”

The Dragons kick off the season against the Ospreys in Newport on Saturday, September 21.

They then travel to Leinster before three Rodney Parade games on the spin against the Sharks, Lions and Benetton.

Flanagan's men finish the first block at Connacht on Saturday, October 26 before a break for the autumn internationals.