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Anscombe looking forward to derby sell-out

28th December 2017

After thriving on the red hot atmosphere of Rodney Parade, Gareth Anscombe is ready to turn his attention to the Scarlets in the second of three consecutive Welsh derbies over the festive season.

The Wales fly-half was continually heckled by the Dragons home support following his pre-game comments about embracing and enjoying hostile environments.

And while the Rodney Parade faithful celebrated a handful of missed kicks, Anscombe provided an abundance of composure on the ball, controlling the game in difficult conditions and putting his team in the right areas.

He had a hand in two of his side’s three tries and is now looking forward to a return to home comforts at a sold out Cardiff Arms Park.

Anscombe said: “The Welsh derbies are always great occasions and with three derbies in 11 days it will be a very busy and challenging but enjoyable period.

“When you’re away from home you can either run from it or embrace it. You have to be pretty positive in everything. You have got to flush mistakes and don’t let the crowd get on top of you.

“You really want to prove a point. When the crowd get on top of you, you really want to give it back to them.

“Now the chance to welcome the Scarlets to the Arms Park with a full crowd will be nice for the boys – it’s a chance for us to test ourselves as a squad which everyone is looking forward to.

“I missed the last one but I remember my first year here and playing in it. They are the best games, probably the only times we sell out the Arms Park as of late. 

“In the more modern stadiums the supporters are moved back but at the Arms Park, and Rodney Parade, there’s that old school feel and it’s nice to be able to interact with the crowd a little bit. 

“The odd comment gets through and it’s always entertaining. It’s nice when you’re at home and you can feel the crowd get on top of them.”

Having recorded a PRO14 double over the Scarlets in the 2015-16 season, the Blues fell to consecutive defeats as the Llanelli-based outfit marched to the title last season and a sluggish start proved costly in November.

But Anscombe believes Wales’ Capital Region have found some form and momentum over the last few weeks – particularly at the Arms Park where they have won five first team fixtures in a row – and he knows they have a point to prove against the reigning champions.

He continued: “These derbies against the Welsh teams are games where the boys have a point to prove and you’re really kicking yourself if you lose. 

“It’s about not letting the team down, the jersey down and doing yourself justice. If we get it right then we certainly set ourselves up and if we struggle for a few wins then we’re faced with an uphill battle for the remainder of the season.

“But it’s a good challenge for this group, one the boys are ready for and hopefully we can take our game to the next level.

“If you look back over the last five weeks we’ve done pretty well. We were hoping that first Sale game was a bit of a blip - we weren’t expecting it and felt like we didn’t turn up. 

“What was most disappointing was we barely fired a shot so to turn that around with two wins, both in testing conditions is pleasing. I feel like we’re getting a better mix to our game and the boys are bit more understanding of what that entails.”

Having been blighted by a recurring groin injury for the duration of his time in the Welsh capital, which flared up once again following the Wales summer tour, has now strung together six matches.

He underwent a new method of treatment, turning to West Bromich Albion’s medical chief Dr Mark Gillett and The Sports Clinic, Dublin’s Enda King to solve the long standing problem.

The 26-year-old admits it has been a frustrating period but he now hopes the issue is firmly behind him and he is relishing an injury-free 2018.

He added: “These games are always a little bit more testing on the body and when you have three of them backed up in a shorter period it’s tough, especially when you take in the weather as well. 

“It adds to the challenge but the group and environment is on the upward curve and were really looking forward to it.

“I’m slowly putting together a string of games in my preferred position of 10. The groin is certainly in a much better place, the body is in a good, healthy state and while these three games will be tough the more I play, the better I feel and the more comfortable I am. 

“If I can get some good performances together I can hopefully grow my game and take some confidence from that.

“It’s tough watching. You get sick of rehab and it can be a pretty lonely place. 

“I think people underestimate it, they think you’re giving your body a rest but you’re almost working it harder and mentally it’s a lot more fatiguing. 

“You’re by yourself, you’re watching games and other people play well when all you want to do is help your team out. 

“So it’s nice to get to the end of the tunnel now and finally be one of the boys again and be playing rugby, which is what we all love doing.

“A few squads will be rotated and it takes a bit of a toll in training, swapping boys in and out, but I’m sure the management have a detailed plan for that. 

“But they are three really important games and ideally we want to win all three so I’m sure the squad will be managed at times but we also want our best squad out to try to win all three.”