Strolling around the Welsh valleys with the thickest of Yorkshire accents, Joe Bedford sticks out like a sore thumb – but there’s a feeling of being at home for the Newport Gwent Dragons scrum-half now and it might just lead to Europe’s top table.
Over the summer Bedford upped sticks from nearby Rotherham and relocated his family to the banks of the river Usk and he’s the first to admit it’s taken time to adapt, both on and off the pitch.
Bedford, 28, is one of four No.9s vying for the starting role in Darren Edwards’ side and as a result he has been limited to five starts and seven appearances off the bench in his first season with the region.
And it has been a baptism of fire. With Rodney Parade redevelopments overlapping with the start of the season, the Dragons played seven of their opening ten RaboDirect PRO12 matches away from home in a competition where home advantage is paramount.
It’s little wonder therefore that the Dragons were dwelling at the foot of the table not so long ago but they have won their last two home matches with Bedford breaking his try duck in the second of those against Edinburgh last time out.
And now the RaboDirect PRO12 table makes for far better viewing – the Dragons are up to tenth and overtaking the Scarlets, which brings with it the reward of a Heineken Cup spot, is no longer an insurmountable task, especially, as Bedford points out, with five home matches still to come.
“Moving to Wales has been a challenge, I’ve gone from Yorkshire across to Wales, taking my wife and two children with me and that brings it’s own challenges,” said Bedford.
“But I’ve settled now off the pitch and I think as a squad we’ve settled down on it as well.
“Getting my first try was great, it’s the kind of thing you can worry about too much but it’s a weight of my shoulders and I can stop trying to force it to happen.
“We’ve picked up a couple of wins now and in truth there have been times this season when we’ve played some fantastic rugby, we’d have liked to get the bonus point against Edinburgh in terms of our league position but that was only our fourth win of the season so a win is a win.
“We’ve got Aironi next and not so long ago that might have been a real bottom-of-the-table match but we’re definitely looking up the table now.
“Because we’ve got so many home matches to play we have to and we have to be confident. We haven’t lost too many boys to the Six Nations and the nature of this league is that you always look to win your home games.
“Catching the Scarlets is going to be difficult, we know that, but we have to keeping pushing them as hard as we can and see where that takes us.”
At first glance, a few eyebrows may have been raised when Bedford crossed the Severn Bridge – you can count the number of Englishmen playing for Welsh regions on two hands while Dwayne Peel and Gavin Henson aside, few high-profile Welshmen make the journey in the opposite direction.
But Edwards was Bedford’s mentor at Leeds with the former ending his career as the latter’s was just getting started.
Perhaps Bedford would be forgiven for regretting the decision with the Dragons scratching around at the foot of the table and with Aled Brew, Jason Tovey and Luke Charteris all joining the mass Welsh exodus to mainland Europe.
But Bedford was quick to dispel the myth that any members of the squad already have one eye on the beach, insisting his future remains in Wales.
“All players get judged on what they do at this stage of the season so there’s no chance anyone is taking their eye off the ball or not giving their all,” he added.
“I’ve been in the situation where you’re leaving a club at the end of the season and the thought of taking it easy or anything like that doesn’t cross your mind.
“Those boys will do all they can for the club before they leave and then we’ll wish them well and I’m sure Darren will bring a capable squad together for next season.
“I knew him from my time at Leeds and he’s the reason that I came to the Dragons.”