THE moment that a teenage Elliot Dee came to training with a swagger, Dragons legend Steve Jones knew that the hooker would go on to play for Wales.

Some fine players have worn the 2 jersey at Rodney Parade – Dee, Richard Hibbard, Lloyd Burns, Tom Willis – but none has made as big an impression as ‘Jabba’.

The front rower, who won five Wales caps, was a member of the first Dragons squad and racked up a then record 180 appearances until a hip injury forced him to retire in 2013.

Later that year Dee made his professional debut as a replacement in the European Challenge Cup win against Italian minnows Mogliano.

It would take four years for the hooker to follow in the footsteps of Jones by playing on the Test stage, but the veteran always had an inkling that his protégé would be capped.

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“Elliot came in at a young age and had a bit of a swagger. You knew that he had something about him, it was just trying to calm him down a little bit,” said Jones, who had a short spell as set piece coach at Rodney Parade after retiring.

“You always knew that he would kick on and that he would play for the Dragons but also at some point for Wales.

“He has grown as a leader, but when he first came in training with us he wasn’t shy at telling the senior players what they needed to do! He had that little something about him and wouldn’t go into his shell, which was great.

“That does help, young players can’t be too confident and sit at the back of the bus straight away, they have to earn their stripes but he had a glint in his eye and you could tell from a young age that he would go on to play for Wales.”

Dee has gone past Jones’ tally of caps and is set for his 23rd Test appearance in Wales’ World Cup opener against Georgia on Monday.

The Dragons hooker has established himself as number two to Lions front rower Ken Owens with Jones believing the improvement will continue.

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“Elliot is showing his talent now but I still think that there is a lot more to come from him,” said Jones.

“His darts have been very good since he was a young kid, while he is a bit of a nuisance like every hooker should be, although I don’t think he’s as much as a nuisance as I was!

“But there is a glint in his eye and can wind opposition up and get a reaction, which is his job!

“Elliot is a good ball carrier and I think more will come from him there, while he also has nice hands – he is the all-round package.

“It’s brilliant that he is going to the World Cup and I hope that this is the first of many. He has worked hard, come a long way and hopefully he will keep kicking on and make that jersey his own when Ken moves on.”

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It could well be that Dee is put under pressure for his Test place by another of Jones’ pupils.

After hanging up his boots the front rower, now 42, took up a role with Gower College and is now head coach of Bridgend in the Premiership.

“I wouldn’t say that it was something that I desperately wanted to do when I finished playing but then I got into coaching through Gower College’s rugby academy, did some age-grade stuff and Bridgend,” he said.

“I am enjoying it and it keeps me involved in the game that I have played since I was a kid. It has its challenges but working in the Premiership is great.

“There are some really good players, ones that might have just missed out on regional rugby or boys that don’t want to really turn pro because of their jobs.”

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Jones’ role means a Rodney Parade return later this season when the Ravens take on Newport RFC and the hooker hopes for brighter times at the famous old ground for his old region.

“We were a very tight group of players and management and I think we fought to be at a level above where we should have been,” said Jones.

“I had so many good memories and played with some amazing characters like Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Adam Black, Luke Charteris, Joe Bearman, Colin Charvis, Michael Owen.

“Put all of them at their best together in one team and you wouldn’t be far off being one of the best teams in the world. There were some great players and it was great going onto that field into battle with them.”

“I just hope that the Dragons kick on a little bit,” he continued. “They are always just a little bit away from getting a win and if you get a couple of wins then things can snowball.

“There are the players coming through - I have seen that in the colleges league - and given time and blended with some senior boys it can come good.”