Earlier this season we caught up with captain and scrum half Rhodri Williams for 'Fired Up' magazine to chat about his time at the region, the progress made under Dean Ryan and even life away from rugby...
Scrum half Rhodri Williams admits he would almost certainly be a carpenter if it wasn’t for rugby – but it is at Dragons where he is continuing to help carve out a bright future.
Williams, 27, has been a revelation since making the move over the Severn Bridge from Bristol Bears in 2018.
The Swansea-born nine made 25 appearances in his debut season at Rodney Parade – missing only two games – and was nominated for the coaches' player of the year award.
The popular back has also been a key figure this season, handed the captaincy by boss Dean Ryan and leading the team into Guinness PRO14 and European Challenge Cup rugby.
However, the former Scarlet insists leading the Dragons has been made easy by his team-mates.
“I’ve really enjoyed the role,” he smiled. “But we have good leaders across the team and that does help me.
“We have the tens who all look to lead the team when they are playing and people like Hibbz (Richard Hibbard) in the front row who has been there and seen it all before.
“It certainly makes my job a lot easier when you have that experience to call on. If I carry on as captain I am happy to do it, but either way it’s been a great experience and one I have enjoyed.”
Williams admits he has been impressed by the impact Director of Dragons Rugby, Dean Ryan, has had on the region since his arrival in the summer of 2019.
And the former Amman Valley Comprehensive School pupil certainly echoes Ryan’s vision for the future and that evolution in the long-term – not short-term success - must be the priority.
“We are looking to progress and grow over the next few years – this is a journey that we are just starting on,” said Williams.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, we will need patience from the supporters, but I think they can see this season that we are growing as a squad.
“This is a passionate rugby region, then fans are hugely supportive and they deserve to see us do well. We’d love to bring them success in the future.
“It’s an old cliché, but we can’t do anything more than take each game as it comes and look to build. It’s about small steps and putting down the right foundations to build on.
“Dean has spoken about progress and we’ve got to do that steadily and the right way. We build and learn from each game, as a playing group.
“We’re actually quite a young playing group so we are still learning the game and Dean is challenging us every day. That is crucial.”
Williams has earned plenty of praise for his performances this season and his renewed half back partnership with Sam Davies.
The pair were last in action for Wales at Under-20s level in 2013 – alongside regional team-mates Jack Dixon, Elliot Dee and James Benjamin – as they reached the final of the Junior World Championships in France.
“Credit to Sam, he has come here and made a real impression since pre-season. He has led from the front, as any ten should do,” said Williams.
“Ask any player and they will tell you they want to play for Wales, and Sam has shown if you play well for our region you can be picked.
“He has kept his head down, worked hard and we’re all pleased for him.
“I was probably quite surprised how much he has matured,” added Williams. “He has blown my expectations completely, in terms of what he has brought to us.
“In the six years since we last played together, he has played alongside the likes of Dan Bigger and James Hook and learnt off them.
“Sam has matured and credit to him to where he is now. He controls the side and it makes my job a lot easier to play alongside him.
“We’re probably different personalities, which is a good thing. We control sides in different ways and I’m probably more the quieter one who demands the standards. It’s a good mix.”
Williams certainly hasn't given up on a Wales recall and adding to his three caps – the last coming against Scotland in March 2014.
However, the scrum half acknowledges to make that dream a reality his performances at Dragons must be up to scratch.
“My job is to get my performances on point. I’d love to play for my country again, hopefully I can push for that,” he said.
“All I can do is get my game in order at Dragons. That is my number one priority.
“I love playing, I come from a rugby family and it is something that has always been about.
“I’m excited about the future,” he added. “It’s going to take time to build, but credit to Dean for the way he has brought in a responsibility on all of us to learn and be open to new things.”
And as for the carpentry – well, the hammer and chisel will have to remain on the back burner for now.
“I still do some carpentry in my spare time,” smiled Williams. “We are doing some renovation on the house at the moment, which is not the easiest of jobs.
“I try to do as much as I can and it keeps me busy when I am away from rugby. But for now sport comes first and achieving something with Dragons.”
It certainly makes my job a lot easier when you have that experience to call on. If I carry on as captain I am happy to do it, but either way it’s been a great experience and one I have enjoyed...