TAINE Basham wants to earn the right to pull on a Dragons jersey next season after the teenage flanker was 'gifted' a taste of professional rugby.

The 18-year-old from Talywain made his debut for the Rodney Parade region in the Guinness PRO14 loss to the Scarlets in Llanelli in January.

Basham went on to star for Wales Under-20s in the Six Nations and on his return earned a quartet of cameos from the bench against the Cheetahs, Benetton, Zebre and the Scarlets at Principality Stadium.

Head coach Bernard Jackman handed 15 academy prospects professional debuts in a challenging 2017/18, using his first year at the helm as an opportunity to give them a brief taste of a higher level.

Basham and fellow young guns Aaron Wainwight, Lennon Greggains and Max Williams profited from a glut of back row injuries but competition will be fierce next season.

Lions ace Ross Moriarty and Worcester forward Huw Taylor are joining while Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd, James Thomas will be back from injury.

But Basham isn't content with just waiting his turn on his return from the World Rugby U20 Championship, he wants to give Jackman an extra selection quandary.

"I was never expecting this season," he said. "I wanted a good run for the Dragons Under-18s but things have progressed and the experiences and opportunities have been brilliant.

"But I know that this year the opportunities have been given to me but from now on they have to be earned.

"There are new signings arriving, injured players are coming back and all of us [youngsters] know that we will have to work our socks off.

"Competition is healthy. I don't want to be coming back from the Under-20s and just be training against the senior players, I want to be in the mix and working my way up.

"I've had a busy season, it's been non-stop and I wouldn't like it to be any other way. I've had plenty of experiences and it was really good to be a part of the big one at Judgement Day.

"The mini-tour to Italy was really good and I was just like a sponge, taking in the surroundings and what it is like to be a professional on a day-to-day basis, learning from the senior players."

But regional thoughts are on the back burner for Basham as he prepares to pull on the red jersey again.

He is still eligible for Wales Under-18s but instead will be a key figure at the U20 Championship, leading the way in a tough group that pits Geraint Lewis' side against Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

"We've got a tough pool but it's not often that you get a chance to go up against southern hemisphere teams and we've just got to show what we can do on the world stage," said Basham.

"As a team we will respect Australia and New Zealand but we will be going into every game thinking that we can win.

"The squad has a good blend of youth and some senior boys coming back for a second world cup.

What we've got to do as a team is respect them but we will be going into every game thinking that we can win.

"We've got a good squad with healthy competition that should bring the best out of us all."

Basham is joined in the squad by seven Dragons teammates – fellow back rowers Greggains and Ben Fry, lock Williams, tighthead Chris Coleman, loosehead Josh Reynolds and wingers Rio Dyer and Joe Goodchild.

Wales open up against Australia in Beziers on Wednesday, May 30 and are at the same venue for the clash with New Zealand on Sunday, June 3.

They round off the group stages with a clash against Japan in Perpignan on Thursday, June 7 before the semi-finals and placings play-offs.