ON the wall of the stairwell in the Dragons’ Ystrad Mynach training base is a tribute to Adam Warren.

It features a number of pictures of the 26-year-old from 2015/16, his first season after swapping Parc y Scarlets for Rodney Parade, along with the stats of 30 games, 30 starts, 2,638 minutes played.

It was a remarkable campaign but ask the affable and honest centre and he will tell you that his performances tailed off when April approached and the heavy workload took its toll.

Warren moved east in search of game time but even he didn’t expect to rack up a perfect 30, a situation that only happened because of serious injuries to Jack Dixon and Tyler Morgan.

Like the centre two years ago, you won’t find James Benjamin complaining about constantly being in the matchday squad.

The back row forward was out in the cold last season with a solitary Dragons appearance, and that was only when an injury crisis led to a late SOS to be on the bench for a European Challenge Cup fixture against Worcester.

Benjamin instead kept himself busy with Bedwas and Wales 7s, just hoping for a change of fortune. That came with a change of boss.

So far this season he has played in 19 of 21 games, 17 of them as a member of the XV.

The Anglo-Welsh Cup block over the next fortnight is timely because Benjamin has been flagging with the management unable to take him out of the side because of a lack of alternatives through injury.

The flanker’s point of difference is his handling and decision-making with ball in hand plus the ability to show the athleticism that is needed when on the World Rugby Sevens Series circuit.

Those qualities are hindered when a player, out of necessity, is flogged.

The dynamic back rower who was running free against Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park in October turned into one who struggled to outrun a lock in Bordeaux in a breakaway a fortnight ago when he started at openside despite a limiting rib injury.

Rotation is now a necessary evil. A winning formula has to be tinkered with eventually.

Every club is always in something of an injury crisis in modern rugby – evidence provided at yesterday’s Six Nations launch by each coach talking about the need to cover for influential absentees – but the Dragons are more vulnerable than most.

That’s always been the case for a region that had to use loosehead/hooker Hugh Gustafson as an emergency lock/flanker in a 2012 Challenge Cup fixture against Cavalieri Prato.

There have been second row crises, wing crises, midfield crises, tighthead crises and this season it’s been the turn of the back row.

This time it’s Bernard Jackman rather than Kingsley Jones, Lyn Jones, or Darren Edwards forlornly trying to make a positive out of a nightmare situation. One man’s misfortune is another’s opportunity, and what not.

That has rung true for 20-year-old Aaron Wainwright, who hadn’t played a game of pro rugby until October but has now caught they eye of the Wales management thanks to his work rate and abrasiveness in the back row.

But the size of the Dragons’ budget means that they are always stretched and in need of one or two of their players moving from the fringes to be being influential.

Recruitment will also be key and after starting with some stellar signings in Ross Moriarty, Richard Hibbard and Rhodri Williams there has been a bit more filler.

Utility back Jordan Williams and back row/lock Huw Taylor have potential while opportunity knocks for fly-half Josh Lewis and scrum-half Rhodri Davies after previously being released by the Scarlets.

Centre Jarryd Sage and outside back Calvin Wellington have been brought in early from Southern Kings and St Helens respectively in order to build them up for next season.

The Dragons have been derailed by injuries this season but cannot afford for a repeat in 2018/19, making the end of the current campaign important even if there is little to play for after missing out on European qualification.

Wainwright must continue his impressive development, abrasive back rower James Sheekey must stake a claim, wing Jared Rosser must make strides defensively to go with his attacking talents, his fellow speedster George Gasson must come back from Wales 7s (and injury) a more physical option, the list could go on.

The Dragons need the teens that have been given a first taste of pro rugby to challenge those that are second on the depth chart next season.

Injuries have been mitigation for a disappointing winter but there can be no such excuses from next September, the region needs a more robust squad that provides Jackman headaches and the opportunity to rotate all season long.


THE magic of the cup – a Rodney Parade side attempting to stun big guns from north London.

Granted, Saracens versus the Dragons doesn’t quite have the profile of Newport County against Tottenham but I’ve always been in a minority by quietly enjoying the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The development competition is invaluable in giving future generations a small taste of what it takes to be a proper professional. They need to be harder, better, faster, stronger.

The Dragons won’t be expected to win at Allianz Park, and even if they do enjoy a fine victory then it won’t quite deserve a ticker tape parade, but it promises to be an interesting afternoon in Hendon.

Places in the 23 for the return of the Guinness PRO14 against Glasgow in a fortnight are up for grabs, so there isn't a complete absence of pressure.