Dragons: New boss Jackman wants them to be 'best in Wales'

Stuart Davies, Bernard Jackman and Martyn Phillips
Bernard Jackman (centre), alongside Stuart Davies and Martyn Phillips, was previously head coach of Top 14 side Grenoble

New Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman says he wants his side to become the best region in Wales.

The Welsh Rugby Union has replaced Kingsley Jones with Jackman and will officially take over the region on Saturday, 1 July.

Jackman wants to remove the Dragons' reputation as Welsh rugby's strugglers.

"If we see ourselves as the fourth region we are in trouble. We need to kick on and be the best region eventually," said Jackman.

The former Ireland hooker was recommended by Wales coach Warren Gatland and appointed by WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips and his Dragons counterpart Stuart Davies.

'Takeover will create stability'

The east Wales team have consistently finished below the Ospreys, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues in the Pro12 and were 11th in 2016-17 with only Zebre below them.

"The vision Martyn and Stuart set out was very clear," said Jackman.

"I see a massive opportunity of being in at the start of creating a new team and region.

"I see the talent in the squad and just want to help them get better and grow the support base of rugby in the region."

Jackman believes the successful takeover of the region will create stability.

"As a coach and player you want to believe the stability and foundations are strong," said Jackman.

"If you are worried whether a club is going to go bankrupt or who is going to be the new owner, that's not a good position to be in.

"The players will come in Monday more comfortable with the situation and all they have to do is concentrate on training hard and getting better.

"The WRU backing will give us that stability, but that doesn't mean we can ease back."

Dragons-Connacht similarities

Jackman is used to the model of a union-regional partnership following his time Irish province Connacht.

"It is a model I grew up with during my 14 years as a professional player in Ireland," said Jackman.

"Each of the provinces are well funded and supported and that helped us get the product right on the field.

"I think the model works, it works in New Zealand and can work here and help us get better."

Jackman also sees the similarities between his new team and Connacht.

"I saw what happened in Connacht and the influence Pat Lam had in creating an identity and game plan and recruiting very smartly," said Jackman.

"That is a similar model to us.

"The team will be made around young Welsh players who want to play for the Dragons and match the vision we have.

"There is a lot of young talent in Gwent and it's about making them believe that playing for the Dragons is going to maximise their potential, help them play for Wales and win something in a Dragons jersey.

"I want this region to be based on local Gwent boys who want to play for us.

"If we need to go out and get a foreign player he has to have a massive impact.

"Our budget will be enough to make sure we are more than competitive."

'I want the pitch as big as possible' - Jackman

Jackman also wants Rodney Parade to become a fortress again, recalling his own experiences of playing there,

"I didn't win very often because it was really tough to come to Rodney Parade," said Jackman.

"We want to get back to that. We want teams to fear and hate coming here because of the ferocity we play with but also by having a full house."

Jackman has also promised a fans an exciting style of play on the new Desso pitch being laid at Rodney Parade.

"It's high tempo ball-in-hand stuff and attack space," said Jackman.

"I have told the groundsman I want the pitch as big as possible.

"The quality of the surface is going to be improved.

"We are going to look to offload and avoid contact as much as we can and score tries from deep."

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