BT Sport's Sarra Elgan knows a thing or two about how special the festive Welsh derbies are to supporters and families having grown up with club rugby in Neath through her Dad Welsh international wing Elgan Rees and being married to Simon Easterby a career Scarlet both as a player and Head Coach. Here she's sends her best wishes to all the Welsh teams at a time when Welsh Pro Rugby is at the heart of Christmas spirit for regional supporters, players and coaches.
“Welsh derbies are just part and parcel of life over Christmas for rugby supporters, there’s nothing like it and it will be strange for us as a family this year not to be directly involved in one of the big games with Simon now working for Ireland.
“It’s all about backing your team and being part of the spirit and tradition of your Region and what it means to you. The excitement for these matches is huge; to an extent form goes out the window and it’s all about the passion and who wants it the most and with four huge derbies on over Christmas you’d never like to call the results beforehand. It’s also about who manages to temper the emotion around the games best and it’s going to be quite a contest between the Ospreys and Scarlets and the Dragons and Cardiff Blues – particularly as back-to-back games, it really adds to the drama.
“I’ve been part of Welsh regional derbies since I was a baby and I can remember my first matches at Christmas when my Dad was playing for Neath. We always went to the Neath v Aberavon games with my Dad’s dear friend John Bevan; we went as a big group and that’s what it’s all about. Most families and groups of friends have supporters from different sides but it all adds to the sense of being a big Welsh rugby community at this time of year – fierce rivalry amongst friends where winning means so much, but with real Christmas spirit too, and that makes for a special atmosphere.
“The Scarlets and Ospreys game always has an electric atmosphere and is very special to me with my roots in Neath, and the last 15 years being part of the Scarlets through Simon’s career, playing and coaching. I’m sure this year will be no different – that’s going to be quite a game especially with the Ospreys sitting at the top of the table. There are some great match-ups to watch amongst Welsh international rivals, it will be a thriller.
“And it will be no different in the East with an intense battle ahead between the Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons who are both looking to gain points in the league; so to add to the regional pride there’s real pressure on both teams to get results.
“I feel very lucky through my work for BT Sport that I’ve been able to be part of live games again in Wales this season and I was at the Cardiff Blues v London Irish games and the Scarlets fixtures. It’s great working in the Aviva but I do love the Welsh clubs. The boys on the show give me a lot of stick when I’m back in Wales on my own patch, saying I wave to everyone to say ‘Hi I’m back!’ – it’s been good to see BT Sport part of Welsh regional rugby in such a big way and to bring games to the channel through Europe.
“It’s been brilliant working for BT Sport and I feel very fortunate that as a group of presenters and pundits we all get on so well. Rugby Tonight is such fun and has been a real hit because it makes rugby so accessible – it’s like talking rugby with your friends. We have so many positive comments from supporters about the show. For us all, it’s about providing rugby coverage that makes sense to supporters. The former players we have as part of the team are legends of the game for sure, but are also genuine fans at heart and that’s how we try to portray our coverage.
“I’d like to wish everyone in Welsh Pro Rugby - supporters, staff, players and coaches - a fantastic time over Christmas and New Year and we all look forward to seeing some brilliant games of rugby in Wales.
“I look forward to being back working in Wales with BT Sport in Europe in the New Year. Until then, a very merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year to everyone,
BT Sport Presenter