Cardiff Blues’ James Botham is raring to go ahead of his first taste of a Boxing Day derby.
The back row missed the Challenge Cup victory over Newcastle with a minor shoulder injury, but is back in contention for the festive derbies.
Botham, who was capped by Wales over the autumn campaign, is desperate for bragging rights over their rivals and expects a competitive clash as players look to impress.
“It’s been two weeks out with my shoulder, so it should be good and I’m raring to go,” said the back row.
“It’s been nice to have a couple of weeks off to let the body recover and hopefully now I’ll come back and do what I know I can do on the field.
“I can’t wait to be honest. It’s going to be my first derby playing with the Blues, because previously I’ve been unfortunate to be injured, so I can’t wait to get out there.
“It will be a little bit less hype with no crowd but you do know that everyone will be watching at home, and as I said I can’t wait.
“We all know that we’re heading to Rodney Parade looking for the outcome to win, but there will also be a lot of personal and individual spots in the Wales squad up for grabs.
“The boys will be looking to out-play their opponents so I’m sure it will be highly competitive and a lot of boys will be trying to prove themselves.
“Dragons will bring physicality and obviously it’s a derby game so they’ll come into it fired up and looking to nail their opposite players.
“I’m sure they’ll bring a lot of heat, physicality and they’ll be good over the ball. They have a good back row and I’m sure they’ll look to prove a point and we know that’s going to come.
“As Dragons always do, we know they’ll be in it for the nitty, gritty fight and the conditions might play into their hands.
“But we need to make sure we’re bigger, stronger and take it from there.”
Having enjoyed a breakthrough year for Cardiff Blues and rewarded with three international caps during the autumn campaign, Botham has reflected on a whirlwind 2020 but insists he will not rest on his laurels as he looks to impress for both club and country.
“One of the first thing that comes to mind is how everyone says 2020 is the worst year of their life, but it’s been completely the opposite for me,” added the Welsh international.
“It’s all happened for me in 2020, and it has taken a while to sink in.
“It’s an amazing feeling. You’ve worked for that since day one, ever since you got your hands on a rugby ball, and it’s paid off.
“You feel like you’ve done your family proud as well as everyone who has supported you throughout like coaches over the years, who have got you to where you are now.
“It’s a dream come true.
“But there’s no point doing that at the top and then coming back down and letting it slide.
“You’ve got to prove and push yourself harder and push everyone around you to get better. So playing this game on Saturday, and the derbies that follow that, I want to keep pushing myself and hopefully become a better player.
“At Cardiff Blues there’s always been really good competition in the back row and that’s what made boys like Shane and myself to thrive now. Having boys like Ellis, Navs and Warby - boys we’ve looked up to - has always pushed us to be better than we can be.
“Now I need to keep my head down, do what I can and hopefully out-play the opposition and that will help me push for that national spot.
“It’s also been about putting a string of games together. I’ve been unlucky over the last couple of years with injuries. I’ve had operations on both of my ankles, I’ve had issues with my back, my knee and it’s just been unlucky in that sense.
“Staying consistent is the big thing for me. If I can stay injury free and consistent then hopefully it should work out for me.”