Richard Hibbard has a message for critics who believe his career is winding down at the Dragons: “The more people that say, ‘Come on, Rich, it is time to retire’ the more in my head I become a spring chicken. I’m aiming for 40.”

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The combative former Wales and Lions hooker is preparing for his 17th season as a professional front row forward. He is adamant that he has the necessary desire and fitness at the age of 36 to remain a key figure in a Dragons squad bolstered by the arrival of Leicester’s Jonah Holmes, Joe Tomane (Leinster) and the imminent announcement of Nick Tomkins’ move from Saracens.

Speaking in an interview on the BBC Scrum V podcast, Hibbard said: “My drive throughout my whole career is proving people wrong. I love proving people wrong and when I have gone well, that is where I get my happiness at the end of the game.

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“People look at age and stuff with the body but if you look at the four years I was with Gloucester I played 100 games. I came here at the ripe old age of 34 but it’s not that old – I’m already in the 30s for appearances with the Dragons after a season and a half. 

“The playing aspect is fine with the body. Retirement comes when you start losing a step or lose the hunger for the game and the competition. That’s still inside me with abundance.

“If your body can still do it, as long as you have the mental aspect to go with it (you can carry on). Competition is part of it, you still want to beat these youngsters, you still don’t want them to dominate you. 

“As long as you are constantly fighting them and not letting them beat you, happy days. The day that you give up and go, ‘Oh, it’s alright’, that’s the day that you go back to the locker.”

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Hibbard, who will battle against Elliot Dee and Ellis Shipp for the Dragons starting role, is currently keeping fit at his Port Talbot home. He has added his voice to the discussion over the 60-cap Test match rule used by Wales to not select players based outside the country. 

“I don’t think it should be as definitive as 60 caps. Rhys Webb played over 100 times for the Ospreys. They should look at things on an individual basis and consider exceptions to the rules.”

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