Four More Sleeps Until The Big Day . . . Boxing Day

It will be a weekend of waiting for Welsh rugby.

Only four more sleeps until Boxing Day and the much-anticipated Welsh regional derbies that can determine whether the cold turkey sandwiches go down well or give indigestion.

Cardiff host the Dragons at 3.00pm at the Arms Park, before attention switches westward to the Scarlets who entertain old enemies, the Ospreys.

The only colours flown on victory flags in the east Wales derby in recent years have been blue and black. Cardiff have won their last 17 fixtures against the Dragons in the United Rugby Championship since the Dragons’ 23-17 victory at the Arms Park exactly nine years ago.

Neither side has shown great form, though. Cardiff’s only win in their last five URC matches was 31-24 at home to the Stormers in round six. That was Cardiff’s only victory in the Championship at The Arms Park since beating Benetton there in February.

Likewise, the Dragons have only won once in the URC this season, but it did come in a Welsh derby when they managed to notch a 20-5 win at home to the Ospreys.

But the Dragons have won only once away from home since April 2022,  a 21-15 triumph at Pau in the Challenge Cup last January, so you could say they are overdue a memorable day.

Former Wales wing Shane Williams, now a TV pundit with Viaplay for the URC, says:

“The Dragons are an almost team at the moment. They do make a lot of errors, with silly penalties and mistakes – coach killers, I call them.

“The Cardiff squad is probably stronger. They just look a bit more organised.

“So if I was a betting man, I would probably go for Cardiff. Never write the Dragons off, but Cardiff have to be the favourites. I think they will be a little bit too strong for the Dragons, so I see them winning that game.”


Scarlets v Ospreys


The other derby looks as easy to call as the Scarlets are badly out of form compared to the Ospreys.

Dwayne Peel’s men have only won two games all season, but they somehow always get themselves up for this fixture and the Ospreys’ record away from home in 2023 is not a good one.

The  Ospreys have not won on the road in this competition since beating Zebre 28-24 in Parma on 29 January.

And Toby Booth’s side have not won at Parc y Scarlets for exactly eight years.

Williams says: “Dwayne and the Scarlets need a win. I think they will feel they owe the supporters a big performance at home.

“All Dwayne wants for Christmas is a victory in this game. But the Ospreys will be the clear favourites.

“They have got less injuries, with quality players who can come off the bench and make a difference. Their squad is stronger and squads win you games in this modern day.”


Jac Morgan Blow


The Ospreys, though, have suffered a blow with the news that Jac Morgan is set to be sidelined for some time with a knee injury that requires surgery.

Morgan – who emerged as coach Warren Gatland’s first choice skipper in France after going to the tournament as co-captain with Dewi Lake – has been told that scans on his injury show it is worse than first feared.

He needs to go under the knife, which will rule him out of the Six Nations which starts on February 2 as well as the Ospreys’ fixtures over the next few months.

It’s a huge blow for the player, for his country and his region as Morgan had established himself as one of the best back row forwards in the world with a series of dynamic displays at the World Cup.

It also leaves Gatland with the headache of who to turn to as his captain, since Lake’s position as the starting hooker was not established in France.

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth was reluctant to say how long Morgan would be out for, but a series of phone calls between Wales staff and those at the Ospreys on Thursday outlined the extent of the injury.

“He is probably going to have an operation to repair an injury,” Booth explained. “We will know a little bit more about that in the next couple of days.

“If there is a repair involved, it will probably be more long-term, but those things can be difficult to predict until we know the nature of it.

Meanwhile, Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt says that No.8 Taulupe Faletau is “healing well” after he broke his arm during the World Cup pool stage match against Georgia.

Sherratt was unable to provide a return date for the experienced back rower but added that he thinks his recovery is “going as planned.”