Harrison Keddie is determined to enjoy every second of the European Challenge Cup as knockout rugby takes centre stage – after being forced to sit out the Champions Cup campaign.
Back row Keddie was on the sidelines when Dean Ryan’s men tasted top tier rugby earlier this season.
He will get a crack in Europe as Dragons face Northampton in an intriguing European Challenge Cup last 16 tie on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 5.30pm).
Dragons should be approaching this clash – which is live on S4C – in justifiably upbeat mood.
Not only have they won three out of their last four games – against the Ospreys, Glasgow and Edinburgh – but they ran Ulster close and their performance levels have been impressively consistent.
They are also back at their real home of Rodney Parade, where the playing surface has been rested and repaired while the team temporarily relocated to the Principality Stadium.
“We have really ripped into things this week and we’re looking forward to the game,” said Keddie.
“We have definitely been improving. We are all excited to keep that going.
“But we all realise that Northampton are a very strong side, with a strong pack and dangerous strike runners who can hurt you if you don’t deal with them.”
The Dragons are vastly improved from the side that lost their two previous European matches this season, when defeats against Wasps and Bordeaux-Begles formed part of an eight-match losing sequence.
Those two European reverses were in the Heineken Champions Cup and when their other two pool matches were postponed due to Covid-19 measures, the Dragons found themselves switching to the Challenge Cup after both European tournaments were revamped to take account of the fragmented campaign.
Keddie admits: “It was disappointing because we only played two games and then the other two were cancelled. I was gutted because I didn’t get a chance to play in those two games.
“That’s why we’re excited by this game – a different competition against opponents from a different league.”
The 24-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers for the Dragons this season and could soon be poised to fulfill the promise he showed three years ago before injuries scuppered his progress.
He appeared on the fringe of international honours, but says watching his fellow Dragons earn success with Wales has been motivating rather than frustrating.
“Two years ago, I would have seen it as more frustrating because I had so many injuries that my career became stop-start.
“But at the moment, I just feel I can keep improving. I am just concentrating on trying to do my job for the Dragons.
“If that gets me recognition, that’s great. If not, then I’ll keep looking to improve in every way I can.”
S4C – Saturday, 5.15pm.
Cwpan Her Ewrop - Dragons v Northampton
Live coverage of the European Rugby Challenge Cup match between the Dragons and Northampton Saints, from Rodney Parade. English commentary available. K/O 5.30.
We all realise that Northampton are a very strong side, with a strong pack and dangerous strike runners who can hurt you if you don’t deal with them...