SCRUM-HALF Tavis Knoyle has piled on the pounds so that he can keep being a big hit at the Dragons.

The 11-times capped Wales international is preparing for the new campaign after enjoying a Rodney Parade renaissance last season.

This time last year Knoyle was working hard in a bid to put an injury nightmare behind him,

vowing to repay the faith shown in him by the Dragons

.

His 2017/18 campaign lasted just 13 minutes with torn knee ligaments and a wrist injury leading to frustration on the sidelines and him contemplating his future.

But Bernard Jackman offered a fresh deal and it proved to be a masterstroke – the 29-year-old went on to be a key figure for the Dragons and made 19 appearances, primarily as back-up to Rhodri Williams.

Knoyle intends to remain a firm fixture in the matchday squad and has been grafting in the gym to boost his chances.

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"I'm really looking forward to starting the season again" said Knoyle,

who signed a fresh contract in April

. "I've changed a few bits and pieces and I'm actually a bit heavier than I was, eight or nine kilos. The last time I was this heavy I was about 20!

"But I wanted to get to back to what I was – maybe some of the injuries stemmed from being too lightweight.

"Rugby is a game with big people. I want to be a bit bigger and faster and be able to carry well."

Knoyle faces more competition this season with Luke Baldwin arriving from Worcester on loan while the Wales Under-20s pair of Daf Buckland and Dan Babos have another year of rugby under their belts.

"I'm pleased Luke is here and I am looking forward to the challenge to be honest," said Knoyle, who signed in 2016 after previously playing for the Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Gloucester.

"It's always been the same for the last 10 years of my career. That is what it is about in the professional game, it's about competing week in and week out.

"You want to make an impression in the environment, to make the team, but that is an enjoyable aspect of what you do. You push yourself every week."

The Dragons returned for pre-season training at the start of June but still have nine weeks to wait until the start of the Guinness PRO14 against Munster in Limerick on Saturday, September 28.

The long summer has its challenges but does enable the squad to get used to life under new boss Dean Ryan.

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"Pre-season is going well. It's obviously a long one, with the World Cup going on, but it is gradually getting tougher every week," said Knoyle.

"The new regime has been good and we are all upbeat about what is going on. There is a really positive vibe about the place.

"There are new structures and ways of working, but everything has settled down quickly."

"The fixtures coming out is always exciting, it makes it all feel a bit more real and it comes around very quick now," he continued.

"No game now is easy in the PRO14. Years ago you would look at your home games against some teams and think you could win them by a good score. There is no way you can do that now.

"They are all tough and the game is getting harder and tougher every year. The PRO14 raises the level every season.

"I think we will be playing a different style to what we have been playing in previous years, in terms of both the offence and defence, so it is exciting."

Knoyle wants to enjoy plenty of game time in the coming campaign but the scrum-half is no longer solely about rugby. His injury nightmare led to him setting up a gym, Unit 9 in Neath, and business is going well.

"I love it. I have got a good mix now between rugby and what I do away from the sport. Having a young family is great too," he said.

"I've been over the moon with how the new business has gone. The people working there, and my friend who is running it, are fantastic and doing so well.

"There is a good trust there which means I can concentrate 100 per cent on my rugby when I am here with Dragons.

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"It is what every young player should do. I tell them all to think hard about their futures after the game.

"I know it is difficult when you are playing, you have got to enjoy it for what it is, but I remember going out with my mates and trying a few trades as well to see if I enjoyed them.

"Studying is not my cup of tea, but everyone is different and you've got to find what is right for you.

"As older players we have to encourage youngsters to learn about life after rugby or try and prepare for it now.

"Rugby was my total world, but I guess injuries pushed me to look at other things and see what else there was. You have to look at different avenues.

"I know clubs like Saracens in England do it really well when they work with the players and get them to do courses.

"The WRPA are working hard here, which is great to see, and I hope that only gets stronger.

"We actually took the lads down to the gym for a pre-season session and it was a good craic – they were good as gold.

"The boys were so courteous and the staff in the gym were singing their praises - it was good to hear how they conducted themselves and nice to get the support from the region."