NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have signed 23-year-old centre Pat Leach from North Wales on a one-year contract.

Leach played for Cheshire and England Counties, going on their Far East tour, and he has preferred to join the Dragons when he had a chance to go to Gloucester or Worcester in the Guinness Premiership.

The son of former Wales B flanker Mike Leach, who played for Colwyn Bay and Waterloo, he linked up with the Dragons during their training camp at Aberystwyth and impressed head coach Paul Turner.

“He had a trial with Worcester, and Gloucester came in late for him, but he has decided to join us,” said Turner.

“He impressed in our own trial and we were quite pleased with him.

“He’s got a lot to his game and I think he’ll develop. He’s big and strong and has got quite a bit of skill. He’s a good sportsman who has also played cricket for the MCC.”

Turner has now filled the gaps he had in the centre after the enforced retirement of Marc Stcherbina, the loss of Rory Sidey and the decision to release Phil Dollman and Gareth Maule.

With Rhodri Davies and new signing Matthew Watkins both expected to miss the start of the season because of injury it left the Dragons with only Ashley Smith as a recognised centre.

But after the signing of Leach, the likelihood of Tom Riley stepping up from Newport and the promise of academy player Adam Hughes the situation has eased considerably.

The Dragons continue to be hit by injuries, though, and apart from Watkins and Davies, new scrum half Danny Lee and lock/blindside Hoani MacDonald are both likely to miss the Magners League opener against Ulster at Rodney Parade a week on Sunday.

Lee suffered a minor hamstring injury in training last week, but is expected to be out for three weeks which would mean him missing the Ulster game, while MacDonald has joined the long list of rugby players who have needed a shoulder operation over the summer period. The Dragons are well covered, though, with last season’s regular Wayne Evans and Alex Walker at scrum half and any number of options in the back row and lock in the absence of MacDonald.

Their management resources are stretched today and tomorrow with Turner and rugby manager Robert Beale attending the annual ERC clubs conference in Paris, along with the other competing teams, while captain Tom Willis, defence coach Colin Charvis and chief executive Gethin Jenkins are at the Magners League launch in Limerick, home of champions Munster, along with their rivals and media from the three competing countries.