NIC Cudd is eyeing an autumn return after the relief of being given another Dragons contract despite rupturing knee ligaments for the third time.

The openside flanker faced an uncertain future when he suffered the injury in training in February, damaging his left leg for the second time.

The 30-year-old was out of contract in the summer but the stalwart was offered fresh terms and a deal was struck.

Cudd is now on the comeback trail with the hope of pushing Wales flankers Aaron Wainwright and Ollie Griffiths, James Benjamin and Taine Basham for the 7 jersey before the year is out.

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"It was unfortunate timing with the injury but it was great to sign on for another season," said the west Walian, who has made 130 appearances since joining from Llanelli in 2012.

"It was good for my peace of mind and great to have an opportunity to get back fit and get back playing again.

"There's no precise target but it's around October or November, that would be the ideal return, and with a knee injury you have to put in the work in the gym.

"I have worked pretty hard with the rehab and I am running a bit now, which is good, and I am pain-free. I want to just keep progressing until I am fit to play again.

"It's good that the season starts later this year, so hopefully I won't miss too much of it. Selfishly, that suits me!"

The timing of Cudd's injury couldn't have been worse; he was out of contract in the summer and regions were in a period of uncertainty over Project Reset.

Added to that was the flanker's two previous knee reconstructions with patella tendon put in his left knee in 2011 while hamstring was grafted into his right in 2017.

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He said: "A few thoughts go through your head but it didn't take long to turn round to thinking 'I've done it before, I'll do it again'.

"I stayed as positive as I could and I don't get too worked up about things. The initial reaction was disappointment but then it was about getting the operation done and getting back fit again."

Cudd's rehabilitation is being aided by a role helping the next generation of Dragons back row forwards with the scavenging flanker helping the academy as a defence and breakdown coach.

"Getting back to playing again is my first priority but it's good to stay active with the coaching," said Cudd, who also has a degree in accounting and finance.

"It's good for me to learn off the other coaches. I am involved in the defence and the contact area, so have been speaking to Simon Cross quite a bit. It's good to get some information from him to use, picking up tips from him and also passing some back.

"If I can pass on some tips to some of the boys then I will… and help out in some way with some of the dark arts!"