AARON Wainwright returns to the Dragons XV this evening after being given a ringing endorsement by one of his rivals for a place in the Wales back row, writes Chris Kirwan.

The 21-year-old from Bassaleg won two caps last month, starting for the first time in a Test against Tonga and then coming off the bench in the opening stages against South Africa.

The flanker has enjoyed a rapid rise since making his Dragons debut in October, 2017 and he made an impression on a former Rodney Parade favourite.

Dan Lydiate, who made 85 appearances after coming through the Dragons academy, was forced to pull out of the Springboks clash because of an elbow injury, a blow that led to Wainwright being promoted to the bench.

He took an early call to action in his stride to earn more plaudits, and Lions blindside Lydiate is among those singing his praises.

"You forget how young he is. He has got a massive future and you can see how over the next few years he will really develop in the Wales environment," said the Ospreys flanker.

"His work rate off the ball is brilliant and he had a really good autumn. You wouldn't think he was a 21-year-old, you'd think he was 25 or 26.

"He has only been at the Dragons for 18 months, so he is going to go from strength to strength. All credit to him, he was given a chance on the summer tour and impressed so much that he was straight back in for the autumn."


Wainwright, who starts against Leinster (kick-off 5.15pm), spoke in November about how he was tapping into the knowledge of iconic flanker Lydiate.

"I've been trying to give him the wrong advice! He's keen to learn and is a very humble guy and you have a lot of time for boys coming through like that," said the 30-year-old.

The flankers return to club rugby to try and earn the call for the Six Nations when Josh Navidi, James Davies and Taulupe Faletau will be back from injury.

"There is probably the most competition that there has been," said Lydiate. "We are in a good place and the coaches will be happy with the strength in depth and as a player you try as hard as you can to remain in the squad."