Sam Hobbs is expecting a tough test when the Cardiff Blues take on the Dragons
Cardiff Blues skipper Sam Hobbs knows his side will have to be at their best to secure a Boxing Day victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons.
It's always a tough game against the Dragons. Everyone is fired up, the fans want to win and that helps boost our performance
Hobbs takes his side to Rodney Parade for the first of back-to-back games against their east Wales rivals, looking to bounce back from a narrow defeat to the Ospreys last Friday.
This Christmas sees the Blues meet the Dragons twice in the space of less than a week, derby fixtures that look set to draw big crowds.
"We've got back-to-back fixtures against the Dragons, it's like a mini-series really and that's the way we're looking at things," said Hobbs.
"We've been working hard on the training pitch and I think we're getting a bit more experienced. If we make sure we look after ourselves then I think we'll do well."
The Blues have been in impressive form in the last month, consecutive victories over Glasgow Warriors in the Heineken Cup leaving the Arms Park region in with a shout of European qualification. Last time out, they went down to a 19-22 defeat to the Ospreys despite a try from Kristian Dacey and 14 points from the boot of Wales full back Leigh Halfpenny.
"Performances have been quite decent, the two Heineken Cup games and the Treviso game saw us all come together," Hobbs added.
"We were the underdogs in those games and we got stuck into people. But in derbies, the form book goes out the window. It's all about that particular match and the 80 minutes.
"The Dragons have been playing really well. They've made some great signings, surprised a few teams in the league and done well in the Amlin so they're going to be tough to beat. Richie Rees, Talei the No. 8 and Kris Burton have all been great signings and Jason Tovey has come back and he's on fire for them.
"It's always a tough game against the Dragons. Everyone is fired up, the fans want to win and that helps boost our performance."
As if this derby clash needed an extra edge, the Blues will take on a number of familiar faces. Tovey, Rees and lock Cory Hill are all current Dragons with a previous connection with the Blues.
"It adds to the derby that we're going to be playing against guys who used to play with us," said Hobbs.
"We're mates off the field but on the field, we won't be giving them an inch. Tovey has been running the game and their nines are always a threat around the base. They've got a good line-out and a pack full of threats so we have to make sure we match them because if we don't, then we'll get turned over."
Phil Davies, Blues Director of Rugby, added: "It's going to be a great derby, I'm sure it will be a fantastic occasion and we are all looking forward to it.
"There was a lot of frustration in the dressing room after the Ospreys game. We played well but didn't quite put the nails in the box when we needed to.
"The Dragons are highly organised and highly committed. With the crowd there too, we can expect massive intensity in the game."
Porthcawl recently received a WRU facilities grant and funding from Natwest RugbyForce in order to give their changing rooms a facelift. This came after receiving £10,000 in a WRU facilities grant last year to tarmac their car park. The improvements have already helped to make the club more accessible, not only for their own members and players but for the whole community.
The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a new, accredited Safeguarding and Protecting Children course - funded by the WRU and delivered in partnership with Sport Wales and the NSPCC - fo rugby club volunteers around Wales.
The SWALEC semi-final draws threw up some mouth-watering clashes in the Cup, Plate and Bowl as the 12 teams aim for the Millennium Stadium Finals Day. All the semi-finals are to be played on the weekend of April 12.
Welsh whistler Rhys Thomas continues to scale the heights of the game as he prepares to be an official in this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens tournament, undoubtedly the showpiece event on the World Series calendar.
Wales International Ian Evans and Wales and Lions legend Scott Quinnell swapped rugby balls for paint pots at Tonna during the RBS 6 Nations. They surprised club players with a special clubhouse makeover to launch NatWest RugbyForce 2014 - a programme developed in partnership with the WRU to make rugby clubs stronger businesses by improving and renovating their facilities with the support of volunteers and the local community.
Fresh from claiming the Bowl honours in Tokyo last Sunday, the Wales Sevens squad have settled into their routine as they prepare for this weekend's Hong Kong tournament where Iolo Evans is aiming high, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.
The Welsh Rugby Union has recently teamed up with Prostate Cymru to help the charity launch its latest campaign to raise awareness of the disease. Members of the Wales squad helped produce a short video and promotional material for the campaign titled 'The Best Defence - is to know the FACTS'.
Newport Gwent Dragons boss Lyn Jones admits that the Ospreys are out in front as the nation's top dogs but he is determined to bridge that gap, starting this Sunday when the two sides meet at the Millennium Stadium.
One of the biggest events in the Welsh regional rugby calendar kicks off on Easter Sunday afternoon as 'Judgement Day II' sees the Cardiff Blues take on the Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons face the Ospreys.