EYEBROWS were raised when Richard Hibbard was given a three-year contract by the Dragons but the combative hooker wants to extend his Rodney Parade stay.

The former Wales and Lions hooker was 34 when he was signed by Bernard Jackman from Gloucester in the summer of 2018.

His destructive style of playing led many to wonder how long Hibbard could keep playing at the top level but he dismissed those fears with an impressive first season as a Dragon, racking up 23 appearances.

That continued in 2019/20 with 13 more outings before a shoulder injury and then the coronavirus pandemic led to a spell on the sidelines.

The former Ospreys favourite starts at his former stomping ground when the Dragons return to action in the Guinness PRO14 on Sunday (kick-off 2.15pm) and Hibbard, who turns 37 in December, is determined to show that this is no farewell tour.

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"The break has put about five years on my career, I would say! I've still got that fire for a challenge," he said..

"The day you retire is the day you give up that challenge, you let yourself get beaten. I'm not ready for that.

"I am loving the physicality aspect and There's nothing better than waking up and you can barely get out of bed because you are absolutely battered.

"I am really excited as well about this Dragons set-up, it's been really good to be a part of it, even if that's being a part of the beginning of it all. To be some part of what it's going to be is class."

Hibbard gets first shot in the 2 jersey with Ellis Shipp – whose development has impressed the Dragons management – backing him up in Swansea.

Wales hooker Elliot Dee is set to return next weekend against the Scarlets as the hookers battle for the start in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final at Bristol on September 18.

"The Bristol game is a superb challenge for us," said Hibbard "They are bigger Galacticos than the Ospreys were a few years ago. Some of that team is just unbelievable.

"The challenge of going up against one of the top English clubs is always good. It does put competition in our squad because everybody wants to play in that game, so it's good for us as a group."

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Hibbard is quick to admit, however, that he has no chance of going the distance this weekend in his first game since the Rodney Parade win against the Ospreys at the start of the year.

"You know your lungs are going to be a bit dusty," he said. "My worst fear is the 20 minute mark when you are blowing out of every hole you've got.

"You get that blood taste in your mouth, the white dots in your eyes. It's getting back to that match intensity.

"You can train all you like, you can do all the running you like, but there's no substitute for going from scrum to ruck, scrum to ruck, maybe a couple of mauls in the middle and then getting smoked.

"That's something I look forward to and relish, when you are absolutely out on your legs and you still want to push on because you know your teammates are relying on it.

"It's huge. You know everybody is in the same boat. It's how you can push through together.

"It's being back on that field, it's that challenge, testing your physicality and your mental strength. That's what you miss.

"We all do it because we love it and enjoy rugby. I can safely say every single squad member has missed it and we are looking forward to getting back out there."

Ospreys: D Evans, G North, O Watkin, K Williams, L Morgan, S Myler, R Webb, N Smith, S Parry, T Botha, A Beard, AW Jones, O Cracknell, M Morris, J Tipuric (captain). Replacements: D Lake, G Thomas, N Thomas, B Davies, W Griffiths, R Morgan-Williams, J Thomas, T Thomas-Wheeler.

Dragons: D Howells, O Jenkins, N Tompkins, J Dixon, A Hewitt, S Davies (captain), T Knoyle, B Harris, R Hibbard, L Brown, M Screech, J Maksymiw, B Fry, T Basham, R Moriarty. Replacements: E Shipp, C Maguire, C Coleman, J Davies, A Wainwright, L Baldwin, A Robson, A Warren.

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU)