THERE were six Dragons in the matchday squad when Wales Under-20s suffered anguish in Vannes against England in the final of the Junior World Championship six years ago.

Hallam Amos was on the wing, Jack Dixon started in midfield, Elliot Dee was at the heart of the front row and Ieuan Jones started at number eight, while flanker James Benjamin and scrum-half Josh Davies were replacements.

Four other members of the 23 – full-back Jordan Williams, fly-half Sam Davies, scrum-half Rhodri Williams and tighthead Nicky Thomas – have since moved to Rodney Parade, as has then England Under-20s back rower Ross Moriarty.

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The Dragons have frequently had a healthy contingent at age-grade level with plenty of individuals getting to experience what is now called the World Rugby U20 Championship.

There are currently eight players representing their country in Argentina – wings Rio Dyer and Deon Smith, centre Aneurin Owen, scrum-half Dafydd Buckland, prop Tom Devine, hooker Will Griffiths, lock Ed Scragg and flanker Lennon Greggains – and that is the same figure as last year in France.

The 2019 number would have been larger were it not for a pre-tournament injury to dynamic back row forward Taine Basham, who would have been a big influence, while Dan Babos missed out to regional rival Buckland because the management opted for just a pair of 9s.

The Dragons have a low age profile as a result of their small budget, which leads them to lean heavily on their academy to act as cover for the seniors.

But they also have a glut of players who should be in their pomp and it is up to those who have frequently been talked about as players of potential to stand up.

The squad has a smattering of veterans, and I sob when reluctantly using that term now that I am older than everyone in the squad.

There are hookers Richard Hibbard (35) and Rhys Lawrence (31), props Aaron Jarvis (33), Ryan Bevington (30) and Brok Harris (34) and back row forward Lewis Evans (31).

Scrum-half Tavis Knoyle recently turned 29 and centre Adam Warren is 28 but there is a large chunk of Dean Ryan's squad who are enjoying their golden days.

Experience isn't just about age and there are a glut of youngish players at Rodney Parade who have plenty of professional games to their name, who have racked up many campaigns.

A frequent lament from Ryan's predecessors has been that they have had the young talent in their squad to go along with some older campaigners but that they have lacked the middle group.

That should not be the case in the coming seasons.

There are some well-established talismen in the Dragons squad – Wales internationals Cory Hill, Dee, Hibbard, Evans – but there are plenty of players in their mid-20s who should not be looking for others to show leadership.

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It was telling that Ryan said last week that he was taking over a quiet bunch.

"It will be a while until we get near rugby and I need to get talking, and from what I have heard they are not a great group at talking," he said ahead of Monday's return for pre-season training.

"I will give them permission to have a view on things! Then we will work out how we move forward from there."

Perhaps too many Dragons have been the sorts of leaders who like to do their talking on the pitch.

Yet Ryan's buzzword has been 'opportunity' and this is a chance for players to really drive improvement at Rodney Parade rather than looking for others to show the way.

The Dragons squad are a nice bunch and plenty of players come across as humble, occasionally shy individuals; that doesn't mean that they aren't driven.

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This is the time for the Under-20s class of 2013, Ashton Hewitt, Harrison Keddie, Ollie Griffiths, Matthew Screech to really up the ante.

Centre Tyler Morgan will be 24 by the time the Guinness PRO14 starts, has played in a World Cup and featured in plenty of Test camps; no longer can such a man be talked about as a player of potential.

Ryan is the new figurehead but the Dragons are not going to improve by being subservient.

Warren Gatland reflected on the differences between Welsh, English and Irish players in an podcast in New Zealand before the Six Nations.

"A lot of the Welsh contribute to the armed forces in the UK because they're doers and they are good at taking instruction and following orders," he said.

"That's what I say about the Welsh players, they will run through a brick wall if you ask them. They will work their butts off. They don't mind working hard and they don't question or challenge stuff."

Gatland has a large staff and plenty of funds at his disposal, plus decades of personal top-level experience, to ensure that a detailed plan is in place to follow.

Yet Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies and even Cory Hill don’t just do as they are told, they help shape the way that things are done.

Plenty of Dragons players who have previously been talked about as prospects are now of an age where they should be expected to do similar at the training base in Ystrad Mynach.