Dragons centre Ross Wardle a key figure on his return to the Rec
9:02am Friday 18th October 2013 in Sport
ROSS Wardle was playing for his dreams of a professional contract when he took to the field in Bath last season. Tomorrow he will be a key figure for Newport Gwent Dragons.
The 22-year-old centre was in the final year of a pharmacy degree at Cardiff University when he made his regional debut at the Rec in the LV= Cup in November.
He had caught the eye of the Dragons coaches with a number of strong performances with Bedwas in the Premiership but an encounter against English opposition presented a golden opportunity to show he could mix it with the big boys.
Wardle didn't disappoint despite the Dragons suffering a 36-15 loss.
He scored a try in the opening exchanges, had another controversially ruled out and did enough to show that he was worthy of a pro deal.
"I was really nervous before the game at Bath last year," admitted Wardle, who went on to make five appearances in the RaboDirect Pro12 run-in.
"I was under a lot of pressure because I hadn't been offered a contract. I was playing for a chance to be here this season and it made me feel a bit more at home when I scored early on.
"It was a good experience for me and I think that I did all right."
Wardle may still be playing for a contract – negotiations are ongoing regarding an extension to the one that expires at the end of the season – but it will be a different feeling when he lines up against Bath in the Amlin Challenge Cup tomorrow.
In the LV= Cup he had 11 on his back and this weekend he will be in his favoured midfield position.
Wardle became even more important to the Dragons this week when teenage centre Jack Dixon had a toe operation that will sideline him for at least four months.
His rugby league background provides an abrasive, no-nonsense figure in the region's back line and director of rugby Lyn Jones is a fan.
"Ross is getting better every game," he said last week. "He's got loads to learn but is full of enthusiasm – he just wants to kill everybody he comes across!"
Bath will be a fifth start on the spin for Wardle and he now that he is settled in he aims to be a cog in a machine that helps the Dragons record a famous away victory.
"I feel part of the team now whereas last year I was on the fringes because I was at university and wasn't here all the time," he said.
"I was an add-on to the squad whereas now I feel part of it and I have a lot more responsibility on my shoulders.
"Last year maybe I was just worried about myself and making an impression; now I am trying to do things for the team rather than being an individual.
"That will be important against Bath because if we are to get anything there then we have to work together.
"It's a great challenge and one that we are all looking forward to – there is no reason why we can't go there and get the win."