The first derby date of the season awaits the Scarlets on Saturday as they take on the Dragons at Rodney Parade – the start of a mouthwatering festive campaign.
Second row Jake Ball took some time out after training to speak to the media about the challenge ahead and how he has settled back into life at Parc y Scarlets following an impressive World Cup in the red of Wales.
So Jake, how’s it been being back on regional duty?
JB: “It’s been really good, it’s exciting. The boys have been playing really well and there has been a great vibe to come back into.
“The World Cup was a brilliant experience. I knew that if I could get out there and stay fit I could put my hand up for a starting spot. That goal never changed for me and I have some wonderful memories from the tournament.
“It was nice to have a few weeks off, there were a lot of games in a short period of time and international rugby takes a lot out of your body. I popped back to Perth to see my parents and sister who I hadn’t seen for a while, so that was great and to catch a bit of sun as well.
“Coming back, obviously, with a new coaching team there are a few different ideas and different ways of running the day which has taken a bit of time to get up to speed, but it is enjoyable coming in.
“The coaches have brought their environment and are getting a good response. They are a bubbly coaching team, not afraid to have a bit of a laugh and that is important. It is a long season and you have got to know when to switch it on and when to have a bit of a laugh and joke. The balance here is brilliant and the boys are turning up and enjoying what they do.”
A winning start against Bayonne as well
“It was great. There was a lot of free-flowing rugby and a lot of stuff that we had spoken about in the week that we put out on the field.
“But we are under no illusion this game will be a lot different on the weekend. The Dragons will be pretty pumped up for this one.
“The Dragons are a much-improved team; they have been playing at tempo and playing some exciting stuff. We all know what the challenge will be.”
How much are you looking forward to this period of Welsh derbies?
“For me, these are the best games of the year; a lot of people watching and for a lot of players this is where you make your name. It is going to be an exciting period ahead.
“You run out onto the field in front of a full house, you get that little bit of extra edge. I am sure there will be a big crowd at Rodney Parade on Saturday and there will be a big crowd for the Ospreys game down here on Boxing Day.”
It’s a massive period ahead, but you must feel that Scarlets are well-placed in both the PRO14 and Europe?
“We want to be playing in the knockout games, that is the goal. It is still early doors in the season, but hopefully we can push for that.
“When we have done well, particularly the season when we won the league, we have done well during the international periods and that has been the case so far this season. The squad depth is great down here at the moment.
“You look at the second row, we have got a lot of big units in there and also that ability to rotate, which is a key element to the game now. If the tight five is playing week-in, week-out you get tired. To be able to rotate is key.”