HOOKER Ellis Shipp has added a physical edge to make Wales internationals Elliot Dee and Richard Hibbard sweat for their places, says Dragons boss Dean Ryan.

The 23-year-old from Newbridge featured off the bench in the return to Guinness PRO14 action against the Ospreys last weekend.

The former Wales Under-20s international made a lively appearance and set up Ashton Hewitt's last-gasp leveller with swift hands down the left wing.

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Shipp made his Dragons debut under Kingsley Jones in 2017 and made a further nine outings in Bernard Jackman's first season at the helm.

He didn't feature at all the following year but has featured 10 times under Ryan, with starts against Enisei-STM, Glasgow, the Cheetahs and Benetton.

The director of rugby says it is now no longer just a case of whether it is Dee or Hibbard that will get the nod at the heart of the front row.

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"I am really pleased with his progress," said the director of rugby about the hooker, who signed a two-year contract extension in May. "Ellis captures the change here in the way that he is going about his business.

"He was on the fringes of the squad but has changed the way that he trains and thinks about the game.

"He has taken his opportunities and is very much a competitive part of the squad now. There is real debate about who starts and there is some really good competition.

"I commend Ellis for his work because there have been a number of people who have said they knew him as an age-grade player but something has changed.

"He is doing thing differently to be better and Ellis deserves all the credit for getting himself into that space."

Shipp is now working under former Wales hooker Mefin Davies, who replaced Ceri Jones as forwards coach in the summer.

Ryan believes the up-and-coming front rower is starting to grow in confidence and offer more around the field to go along with the essential nuts and bolts.

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"He is very accurate," said Ryan. "That's the first thing for a youngster because if you are accurate it allows the other 14 people to be able to play.

"You can be the best rugby player in the world but if you are not accurate as a hooker then nobody else can play.

"Ellis is a really good footballer but in your first few games you are not going to run around trying to do all the bits and pieces.

"He has grown in confidence and we saw some nice touches at the Ospreys just moving the ball around.

"He has got himself in better condition and is more physical, he is more durable and is not under as much stress when fatigued.

"Real credit to him for the change over the last 12 months because we need competition."