ELLIOT Dee intends to keep "living the dream" in Japan after earning World Cup selection just three years after he feared for his Dragons future.

The 25-year-old hooker from Newbridge was named in Wales' 31-man squad for rugby's biggest tournament on Sunday afternoon.

Dee has been a regular in Warren Gatland's team since making his debut as a replacement against Georgia in the autumn of 2017, featuring in 21 of 23 Tests.

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Winning a cap, let alone racking them up, seemed a long way off during a nightmare 2016/17 in which he endured three ankle operations and another on his nose.

That frustrating season came after Dee's mother – and biggest fan – Lynn passed away in February, 2016.

READ MORE: Memories of mum putting fire in my heart with Wales - Dee

The hooker is now a Dragons talisman but back then was worried about whether he would be kept on at Rodney Parade.

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"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong in that season," said Dee.

"I was out of contract at the Dragons and hoping to grab one so that I could establish myself there.

"I haven't really said this, but I was quite fearful and panicky about what was going to happen.

"Being out of contract is never a nice position for a player to be in and I had spent nine months in a boot, unable to find out what was wrong with my ankle.

"Everything was going wrong but rugby is a funny old game with highs and lows – I luckily found some form at the start of the following season and haven't looked back.

"It's all happened so quickly, it's been a mad couple of years and I have really enjoyed it all.

"I just want to keep pushing on – I want to keep living this dream."

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Dee has played in all three warm-up Tests so far but after backing up Ken Owens twice against England and Ryan Elias against Ireland last week, the Dragon is set for a start.

Warren Gatland said that he intends to hand him the number 2 jersey in Dublin on Saturday and Dee wants to make an impression; the Dragon is not content with being Lions hooker Owens' deputy when the World Cup gets under way against Georgia.

"It would be nice to get more minutes and put down a marker for the first game in Japan," said the front rower, who is two appearances short of his Dragons century.

"If you don't back yourself to be a starter then I don't think that you should be in this squad in the first place.

"Competition is healthy and Ken couldn't have done anything better over the last two years – he has been right on top of his game.

"Ken playing so well pushes me on to try and take that jersey off him, while Ryan played well on the weekend so between the three of us there is good competition driving us on."