FORWARD James Thomas has returned to Newport Gwent Dragons after signing a full-time deal with the Rodney Parade region.

The 23-year-old lock/back row from Blackwood has been given a one-season contract and is set to feature in a Dragons jersey for the first time in nearly five years at Saturday's Premiership Rugby 7s at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.

The former Wales Under-20s captain will now try to follow in the footsteps of Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs.

Just like the 10-times capped Wales lock, Thomas was released by the region before earning a pro deal by impressing in the Principality Premiership.

He came through the ranks with the Dragons but made just one senior appearance – as a replacement in the Anglo-Welsh Cup win against Sale in 2009 – and was let go in 2011 after suffering serious injuries to both knees.

Thomas made his comeback with Pontypool and moved to Bedwas, where he learnt to play lock as well as number eight and blindside, the following season.

He went from strength to strength at Bridge Field and his efforts earned a return to the Dragons fold in February of 2013.

Thomas was an unused replacement against Zebre in Parma and was named in the extended squad for the Rodney Parade clash with Leinster the following week.

The Dragons management has changed since then but director of rugby Lyn Jones and head coach Kingsley Jones have given him another crack.

Thomas, who was Premiership player of the month in January, has been working hard in pre-season at the region's new training base in Ystrad Mynach and is backed to make an impression by Bedwas head coach Steve Law.

"James' attitude and workrate on and off the field is superb," said Law. "He has made a huge impact with us over the past two seasons and his performances have earned this opportunity with the Dragons.

"He trains extremely hard and is a tough boy who has responded brilliantly to the injury setbacks that he suffered early in his career.

"James is a quality player but I'd love it if we don't see much of him next season, because that will mean he is being successful with the Dragons."