Back row ace Aaron Wainwright is determined to make Rodney Parade a fortress this season as fans return to stadia for the 2021/2022 campaign.
The new season is fast approaching and extensive work at Rodney Parade has taken place over the summer with a striking new look ahead of the big kick-off on home soil, with a superb new playing surface now installed.
Wainwright insists the players can’t wait for the opportunity to play on the new pitch at the home of the Dragons.
But the 27-year-old admits he is most excited about supporters returning following an unprecedented 18 months.
“I went down to watch Newport County play the other day and saw the pitch in the flesh for the first time and it looks amazing” said the Welsh international.
“Hopefully it can be kept in as pristine condition as it looks at the moment, but really looking forward to playing on there, having the fans back in the stadium making noise from the terraces and stands, which is what it’s all about and I’m excited to get going.”
He continued “That is probably the thing I am most looking forward to about starting playing again, Rodney Parade is a massive advantage for us when we play there, I think having the crowds back helps us and deters teams away when they come down to us.
“But really looking forward to having the fans back and hopefully they can make some noise on that opening day and we can make home a fortress this season.”
Dean Ryan’s men begin pre-season this Saturday as they take on the might of English outfit Leicester tigers at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium before travelling to face the Wasps a week later.
Wainwright spent the summer with Wales and has taken his total caps to 31 after making two appearances for Wayne Pivac side over the summer internationals at the Principality Stadium.
The Dragons academy graduate linked up with his team-mates for pre-season following some time off and admits it’s been great seeing the youngsters step up and has been impressed with the new signings for the Men of Gwent.
“My summer was good, but it’s nice to be back and see some of the younger boys coming up and joining in with the squad which is good.
“Seeing some of the new signings that we made gelling together as a team is nice, so just looking forward to cracking on with the season and seeing how we go.”
Wainwright continued “The two friendlies will be tough games but hopefully we can see where we stand against them and use that as a marker to go forward into the season.
“Leicester and Wasps are both big teams, doing really well so hopefully we can go out there and put some good performances in.”
The URC fixtures have been released and first up for the Dragons is a Welsh derby against the Ospreys at Rodney Parade.
Wainwright is targeting consistency for the Men of Gwent this season with the hope of qualifying for Champions Cup rugby once again.
“Derby game is a great way to start the season off, looking forward to it and it will be nice to see some familiar faces from the welsh squad playing hopefully.
“But it’s been a weird 18 months, two years so I am looking forward to kicking off the season.”
What are Wainwright’s aspirations for this season? “Hopefully get some more wins under our belt for the dragons and build on what we started to do towards the end of last season.
“The back end of last season we started playing some of our best rugby and I think if we can carry on doing that at the start of the season and consistently do it throughout the season then we put ourselves in a good place for some champions cup rugby next year.”