The head coaches of all four Welsh Regions have set their targets high for an intense series of Welsh derbies as Pro Rugby in Wales looks forward to a high point in the welsh rugby regional calendar.
With tradition, heritage and pride of Welsh festive derbies adding to the atmosphere and pressure on teams, there are crucial Guinness Pro12 points at stake for all four teams in a series of back-to-back games in the East and West that are set to thrill the crowds.
Five festive derbies line-up between our four Regions:
- Cardiff Blues v Dragons, Friday 26th December, kick off 2.05pm BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
- Ospreys v Scarlets, Saturday 27th December, kick off 5.15pm The Liberty Stadium
- Newport Gwent Dragons v Cardiff Blues, Thursday 1st January, kick off 2.05pm at Rodney Parade
- Scarlets v Ospreys, Saturday 3rd January, kick off 5.05pm at Parc y Scarlets
- Ospreys v Dragons, Sunday 11th January, kick off 4pm at Liberty Stadium
After showing impressive form against Ulster the Ospreys will be looking to maintain their form and momentum at the top of the table over the Christmas period with two big back to back games against near rivals the Scarlets kicking off on their home turf at the Liberty Stadium.
The Ospreys are set to welcome one of their biggest crowds of the season in two years when their near neighbours the Scarlets travel to the Liberty stadium on the 27th
The Ospreys are expecting their largest crowd of the season as the traditional fixture has seen ticket sales soar in the recent weeks and with ome tickets still left on sale for just £20 for adults and £5 for children there is no better way to celebrate the festive rugby season with friends and family.
Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy said: “We were encouraged by the result and our performance throughout against Ulster and we’re looking to maintain our standards and momentum going into two big fixtures against the Scarlets. Emotions run high in these games, as an ex-player you appreciate what it means and what it takes. While we can be pleased with our recent performances we know we’re going to have to bring an intensity and focus to this game – you have to be disciplined as players and coaches and these are great games to be a part of.”
The Cardiff Blues and Scarlets kicked off the festive derby season with a hotly-contested game that saw the hosts secure a home win in front of a bumper 9,443 crowd at the home of Pro Rugby in the capital.
On the back of this successful Welsh derby on 19th
December, the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park only has limited seating tickets left for its Boxing Day event as the Blues take on the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Mark Hammett, Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby said: “The intensity is so much greater if you are playing against your colleagues in Wales, we all know, whether players admit or not that they are looking to set a mark against their rivals for international places – there’s added colour no doubt.
“You can feel the excitement for these games from the crowds - it has to be some of the best entertainment of the season particularly if you’re right in the heart of the capital city centre. I’m excited by this time of year and to be part of it, the atmosphere on Friday at our stadium was great and to see the stadium full with a busy festive atmosphere with young supporters, boys and girls watching their rugby heroes, it’s a special time for families to celebrate their love of rugby here in Wales.”
The Newport Gwent Dragons know they have a tough fight on their hands at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Boxing Day but as Assistant Coach Kingsley Jones points out there’s no requirement to get the players up for these games.
Kingsley Jones said: “Whichever way you look at it and whatever has happened so far this season, these are great games to be a part of as a player, supporter or coach. The timing and tradition of these games really draws in our crowds and the Gwent rugby public will be out in force I’m sure to support the team. We owe our supporters a little over these derbies, we’ve got some positive momentum back in the last few weeks and we need the right performances to turn 2015 into a good year for us.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone at our home on New Years’ Day - it’s a proper rugby ground with a unique atmosphere and we’ve seen some of that already on Friday nights at Rodney Parade in a league with a brand of rugby that is played with more attack and positivity than it’s given credit for sometimes.
“There’s no doubt there is an extra feeling of focus and enthusiasm in the weeks preparing for these games. It’s about old foes, four regions all competing against colleagues, with Welsh internationals and future internationals ensuring nobody gets one up on them. The rugby set-ups all feel the extra spice in these games – there are guys who have played together in teams as well and against each other over the years - so there’s more rivalry than ever. Everyone wants to be part of these games.”
Mark Jones, Skills Coach for the Scarlets who will be involved in his 15th season of festive derbies this Christmas between Scarlets and Ospreys said these games live long in the memory for everyone connected with their rugby region. The former winger said: “You know how much focus and pride is placed on these games from every perspective and as a Scarlet they are the most important fixtures of the season in terms of tradition, heritage, supporter pride and competition between rivals. It’s a great time of year to be involved in Welsh professional rugby and our passion as rugby communities comes alive because of the intensity and excitement but equally we all need to be focused on producing all important points for our league season. Whichever way you look at this period, it’s vital to us to put in some big performances.”
Last season the Welsh derbies pulled in the crowds over the festive period with an average attendance over the 2013 festive season of 11,510 with tickets sales for all games looking healthy in all four Regions for the Christmas derbies in 2014.