Newport Gwent Dragons have a Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series legacy to envy and coach Nick Wakley expects his experienced team to mount a serious title defence – starting this Friday.
Welsh regions first joined the competition in 2014 and the Dragons have certainly made their mark, reaching the final that year before lifting the trophy 12 months ago.
Harrison Keddie grabbed the all-important score as the Dragons downed a star-studded Wasps side in the Series Final – and that winning nucleus is a year older and wiser this time around.
The Dragons head to BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Friday to play Ospreys and Cardiff Blues, before finishing up against Scarlets.
And Wakley insists head coach Kingsley Jones has supplied the 7s side with the calibre of player that can see them go the entire way again.
“As a region the Dragons are very supportive, Kingsley Jones is very competitive,” said Wakley. “They want to win things and they have shown that with the calibre of players we have had to choose from over the past couple of seasons. It has been great to work with.
“The Singha 7s has been an incredible success for the Dragons in terms of the youngsters close to the top flight rugby.
“Angus O’Brien and Ashton Hewitt, Harrison Keddie have kicked on and hopefully will get more exposure this year.
“It has been a great stepping stone for them, it is a brutal environment and they really thrived in it and excelled. I am hoping to see the same thing this year and the three of them starting to put pressure on the first XV at the Dragons.”
The Dragons finished top of Group A last year, despite losing the opening match of the tournament to Scarlets.
They then beat Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby on Finals Day at Twickenham Stoop before inflicting the 17-14 defeat on Wasps that saw them hoist the trophy aloft.
And while there will be familiar faces on parade for the Dragons this Friday, Wakley holds high hopes for the new blood coming through – including teenage centre George Gasson.
“The academy players there are very impressive, you only have to look at the likes of Lloyd Lewis, George Gasson – they are exceptional athletes,” added Wakley.
“They have been coached very well, they are exciting players to work with. They have been supportive with me and my demands with coaching and getting coaching time with them outside of their pre-season training so that I could instil my sevens principles on them.
“They have all bought into it, which makes it pretty easy to coach.
“George Gasson is a great athlete, he is fast, he is big, he can be a kick-off option for me. He could also do a job in the forwards, which is a big interest to me. We like spreading the ball around the field and that allows us to have pace on both sides of the sevens field.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 22 July at Cardiff Arms Park with the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets