A WALES international has signed up at Rodney Parade but it’s less of a statement of intent and more a statement of steady progress.

Jonah Holmes will start day one of a three-year Dragons contract on Monday after leaving Leicester in a bid to boost his Test career.

It’s a strong signing but not one that will make the rest of European rugby sit up and take notice.

One imagines that’s how Dean Ryan would like it; the director of rugby is not one for the grand gestures or playing to the crowd.

He’s wisely dampened expectations from the moment that he headed through the door at Rodney Parade.

The signing of Holmes is another step towards improvement, a player who will make the XV better but won’t get the whole league talking.

Holmes is hungry to make an impact and has shown at Leicester that he is a quality player, with 24 tries in 45 appearances despite the Tigers being a shambolic side in recent times.

The 27-year-old is a terrific finisher at club level. Repeat his East Midlands exploits in East Wales and he gives himself the chance to show he can do it on the international stage.

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Holmes is a similar signing to Sam Davies last season – a capped player but not an established Test player with a move presenting an opportunity to prove themselves – rather than the Ross Moriarty one.

The Lions back row forward moved to the Dragons in the summer of 2018 and the bumper deal came courtesy of the region being desperate to announce themselves as a force.

It was only at the end of 2019 and start of 2020 that we really saw the best of Moriarty, so it was a relief that 26-year-old turned down other offers in favour of the one put on the table by Ryan.

The new funding model, where the Welsh Rugby Union pick up 80 per cent of the regions’ contracts with 38 chosen Test players, makes that deal a no-brainer even if it means those individuals may only sneak into double figures for club outings.

But when Moriarty arrived it was the Dragons planting a flag, one featuring their revamped logo shorn of ‘Newport’ and ‘Gwent’, firmly in the ground.

Poker-faced Ryan doesn’t appear to be as keen on such moves, he’s a boss who keeps his staff grounded.

International hopeful Taine Basham has been frequently told he’s got plenty to do to become a Dragons star let alone a Wales one while the director of rugby’s comments on contract renewals are rarely gushing.

Dorian Jones was stitched up by Lyn Jones after signing a new deal in 2015: "He is as good as any 22-year-old outside half, except Dai Watkins, I have seen coming out of the valleys of Gwent.”

Earlier this month Arwel Robson, after a signing a one-year extension to try and put the pressure on Davies and Josh Lewis, got: “He still has lots to learn and now needs to play regularly and show he can develop in our environment.”

That Holmes has taken up the offer to head to the Dragons rather than see out his final year in Leicester before moving to Rodney Parade (or the Arms Park, Parc y Scarlets or Liberty Stadium) is encouraging.

He knows that he is down the Wales pecking order but this is a chance to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

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After moving from the Ospreys, Davies was told by Ryan that it was a chance to mould a team. Holmes isn’t in the key decision-making position of fly-half but it’s similar for him, this is an opportunity to be the region’s go-to man in the backs.

Do that and Wayne Pivac will look to involve him on a matchday rather than merely asking him to run as the opposition in training.

Holmes can give the Dragons a little bit more quality on the outside and help them close the gap to the other three regions.

They were poised to finish above the Ospreys in 2019/20 but let’s not pretend that they are a bigger or better team than their rivals from the Liberty.

Whenever the green light is given for the PRO14 to resume, the Dragons will be seen as the fourth Welsh region by teams in Ireland, Scotland, Italy and South Africa.

There is justifiable encouragement after the first season under Ryan but we don’t know how a solid campaign would have ended.

The European Challenge Cup quarter-final with Bristol would have been formidable while the PRO14 featured two games against second-placed Ulster, a trip to the Scarlets, a clash with unbeaten Leinster, a double-header in South Africa and derbies against the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues.

Perhaps encouragement would have turned into excitement, perhaps it would have been checked by defeats.

The Dragons haven’t enjoyed more league wins than defeats in the season run-in from January since the first year of regional rugby.

Ryan knows progress was made but didn’t declare the region as world beaters. He know that the squad needs more depth and more quality.

The way to achieve that isn’t by making sweeping changes in the first summer and Player X might be needed for a year or two even if you think he will look out of place when you get to the next level.

Ryan intends to build on his first season and Holmes and the handful of new recruits should enable more small steps to be made in year two.