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."
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.