Playmaker Sam Davies reckons he has never felt fresher in January and aims to prove it when the Dragons resume their season on Saturday after a month-long break.
After four weeks of inactivity, the region finally get back on the rugby field as they travel to Treviso to take on Benetton in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday (kick-off 3.15pm UK time).
For fly half Davies it’s an opportunity to show the benefits of a mid-season break in a must-win clash, that is live on S4C.
“I have to say, I feel a lot fresher than I would normally do at this time of year,” said Davies.
“Normally in January, on a Monday morning, I wake up and have to limp down the stairs.
“But my last few Saturdays have been spent taking the dog for a walk over the park, instead.”
Dragons saw the festive derby calendar entirely wiped out with games against the Ospreys, Cardiff and the Scarlets all postponed.
Dean Ryan’s men were badly affected by Covid outbreaks, with at one point over half the squad unavailable for selection, and Davies admits: “It was tough not having the games over the festive period.
“We were still prepping as though we were playing, so it was difficult because you do all the work but don’t get the release at the end of the week.
“But the benefit might now be that we have been able to re-set. The break has freshened things up.”
With no games to watch, the only notable records being updated at Rodney Parade over the past few weeks have been young players signing new contracts.
Backs Rio Dyer and Aneurin Owen have put pen to paper on new deals, while props Chris Coleman, Josh Reynolds and Luke Yendle have also agreed new terms.
The oldest of that batch is Coleman, at 23, leaving Davies – who is now 28 – realising he is now one of the old-guard.
“I’m finally realising I am one of the more senior guys now,” smiled Davies.
“We have a lot of young, local boys who have committed their futures to the region which is great.
“There is a certain level of responsibility that comes with getting older within the group. Sometimes you speak up and say that the intensity of a certain session needs to be stepped up.
“It definitely becomes easier to speak up when you get older. I’ve got plenty of games under my belt now and can offer the benefit of that experience.”
Having lost the opening two games in the tournament – away to Perpignan and then at home to Lyon – Dragons must win in Italy to maintain a realistic chance of progression to the knockout stages.
Benetton are a far tougher prospect at their Treviso base than in years gone by and Davies admits it will require a high-quality performance to defeat a team who lay seventh in the URC table.
“Benetton have proven to be a very good side off the back of their Rainbow Cup win. They’re a very good team now and we respect them,” added Davies.
“But if we can tap back into some our performances earlier in the season, then we can definitely get the win.
“Looking at the Perpignan game, it was one that we threw away, really.
"We also lost some games which were on a knife edge at the start of the season, but after the international break we lacked the accuracy and intensity in tight games that we had shown before.
“But with a fresh start, this a huge opportunity for us to change the way our season is running and we have to seize it.”
S4C – Saturday: 3.00pm – Rygbi Ewrop Benetton v Dragons - Live coverage of the European Challenge Cup match between Benetton and Dragons. K/O 3.15pm.
Benetton have proven to be a very good side off the back of their Rainbow Cup win... They’re a very good team now and we respect them