ELLIOT Dee has played with his Dragons energy and spark in the red of Wales – with the memories of his mother Lynn putting fire in his heart.

The hooker’s mum passed away on February 7, 2016.

Dee produced an astonishing performance just four days later when, after a minute’s silence was observed at Rodney Parade, he shone against Connacht with a display of tenacity, drive and heart.

It’s the same emotion that has driven the front rower on in a stunning season that has seen his regional performances rewarded with autumn caps against Georgia and South Africa and Six Nations outings versus Scotland and England.

The 23-year-old has taken the dynamism that earned a call from Warren Gatland onto the Test stage, with thoughts of Lynn never far away.

“On the bus ride into Twickenham I had a think and it puts a bit of fire in my heart. It was two years last Wednesday and it was quite an emotional week,” said Dee.

“It’s emotional every time that I sing the anthem and I wish that she was there watching.

“She was a massive supporter, like any mother she used to go over the top and I had to rein her in a bit!

“I use it as a bit of fire and you can pull out good performances with emotion as well – if it means a lot to you then nothing is going to stop you.

“The emotion has to be there. It wouldn’t be right if you were playing for Wales and not feeling it because it is everybody’s dream.

“You can use that to fire your game and it makes you braver. Then you have to not let the occasion get on top of you, be in the moment, enjoy it, realise that you’ve been trusted to be there.”

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Dee has impressed at Test level after finally getting a shot. The hooker, who was a member of the Wales Under-20s XV that lost the Junior World Cup final to England in 2013, has long been on the international radar but never quite got the call.

Then last season he suffered injury nightmares with three ankle operations and one on his nose that limited him to just 11 appearances, frustration to make Dee cherish the current good times.

“That’s rugby, there are massive highs and crushing lows,” said the hooker, who has made 79 appearances since his 2013 Dragons debut.

“When you are injured or out of favour it is hard mentally to see the light at the end of the tunnel but then when it’s going really well you have to stay grounded and remember the hard times as well.

“You have to enjoy the good times, which I am trying to do at the moment, but it’s a tricky game with ups and downs all over the place.”

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Dee has earned the trust of boss Gatland and forwards coach Robin McBryde, who have looked to the Dragon to come on with gusto as a replacement for Ken Owens.

Against both Scotland and England his first involvement was to hit his man at a lineout, with that followed by a run off the back against the Scots and then a daring no-look inside flick pass.

“You just have to back yourself and know that the coaches trust you, that’s why they put you on, so go out there and execute,” said Dee, who locked horns with Lions starter Jamie George at Twickenham.

“It’s a big confidence boost for me getting 20 minutes and being trusted to have the game time, I am just enjoying being out there.”

And Dee is happy to be learning first-hand from a Welsh great in Owens; keen to put the heat on the Scarlets ace for the 2 jersey but also biding his time while full of respect.

“It’s natural with competition that you want to play as much as you can, but Ken always puts in great performances for Wales and it’s good to learn off him, then when he blows up I try to go on and carry on his good work,” said Dee, who is yet to start a Test.

“We have different styles of play, Ken is a big ball carrier and big hitter whereas I am more of a ball player really, although I like to carry and get stuck in as well.

“Ken is putting in the hard yards for however long and then when the game opens up a bit it’s good for me to come on.

“I just feel like it’s good to earn your stripes with however many minutes you get. Ken is established and has played well for 10 years now and is one of the great hookers for Wales.

“It’s good to learn from him and try and impress whenever I get the game time. He is a great bloke and looks after us youngsters, passing on his experience. It’s great to follow behind him.”

Dee is set to wear 16 on his back for the fifth time against Ireland in Dublin a week on Saturday. It’s a crunch game with Wales having no margin for error in the Six Nations title tussle, but the approach will be the same.

“I am starting to feel comfortable here now. For the first couple of caps there are mixed emotions and it’s the pressure before you go on,” said Dee.

“You are thinking ‘What if I mess up?’ but when you are actually out there your instincts and the preparation kicks in. When I am out there I just play my game.”

Something he is doing with gusto.

Two years ago Dee pledged on social medial that he would keep making Lynn proud, there is no doubt he has fulfilled that promise.