NOT even a hammering at the hands of Northampton could prevent carpenter Joe Mills from enjoying a first taste of regional rugby, writes Chris Kirwan.

The 25-year-old tighthead prop from Rumney made his Newport Gwent Dragons debut off the bench in last weekend's 34-16 LV= Cup defeat at Rodney Parade.

It's fair to say that he was thrown in at the deep end against the Saints.

Not only did he have to scrummage in standing water in front of the North Terrace towards the end of the game but for 24 minutes he was up against an Aviva Premiership outfit known for their set piece prowess.

Yesterday it was back to the day job for the Bedwas front row forward, who was a lock with Rumney in Division One East last season.

And Mills does so with knowledge of what it takes to become a full-time professional following an enlightening few days with the Dragons.

"The learning curve was steep and it was great to gain a lot of experience and pick up technical skills through the week," he said.

"It was a hell of a game to make my debut in, especially with the weather! The Northampton tight five was so strong and it was a bit daunting, but it was nice to get out onto the pitch and I enjoyed it.

"It's given me a taste of regional rugby and now I've got to go back to Bedwas and keep learning.

"It was nice to see what's involved in becoming a regional player. The training was hard but it was a great experience and I learnt more last week than I have in a long time."

After a crash course in the dark arts of front row rugby at regional level, Mills is set to return for Bedwas in their Premiership encounter with Cross Keys at Pandy Park on Sunday.