John Mulvihill is excited by the intensity of the festive derbies, as Cardiff Blues target back-to-back victories when they travel to Llanelli to take on Scarlets on Saturday.
Wales' Capital Region travel to Llanelli on the back of a dramatic victory over Dragons at Cardiff Arms Park last week, where Gareth Anscombe slotted a last-gasp penalty to seal the win.
The head coach insists it’s vital that his side keep in touch with the race for European qualification, as they look to close the gap on Munster, Ospreys and Connacht in Conference A.
“It’s really good to have games each week at this time of the year. It makes the season speed up and it’s good for us, going in on the back of a win, to try and go back-to-back to get another one as soon as possible,” said Mulvihill.
“Next week, we’ll be facing Ospreys, who we’re facing twice this season. If we can get a win this week hopefully it will put a bit of pressure on them and if we get a result next week too, then we’ll be right back in the mix, which is where we need to be.
“The season is in our hands because we play Ospreys twice and Connacht twice over the next few months.
“It will be my first time playing against Scarlets this week, and it’s down there, so I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully they’ll get a good crowd.
“It’s a derby game, which is when people turn up, so hopefully it’s going to be a really hard-fought game and hopefully not as much kicking as the game at Liberty Stadium last week.
“Our selection has been quite consistent over the last couple of weeks, but Gilly [Rhys Gill] picked up a bit of a knock so he’ll be replaced.
“We thought Brad Thyer is one of our stronger scrummagers, which we’ll need this week, so he come in.
“Dmitri Arhip comes back in this week on the bench, which will be big for us but also big for Dillon [Lewis] as he’ll be able to shoulder some of that load as well.
“We’ve picked Lloyd [Williams] at scrum half just to make sure we get our kicking game right and play in the right areas, particularly in the first half.”
Scarlets have named 10 internationals in their line-up for Saturday’s encounter, as Cardiff Blues academy product, Leigh Halfpenny, returns from concussion to start in the number 15 jersey.
With Rhys Patchell absent due to a hamstring injury, Hadleigh Parkes, who is usually an inside centre, is named at number 10.
Following a tough run of games, Mulvihill expects a backlash from Wayne Pivac’s side, and has highlighted the dangermen in Scarlets' midfield.
“Scarlets are a Championship team and they have some really good international players, and they’ll definitely try to find a win tomorrow, especially since they’re playing at home.
“We’ve been through a bit of a bad patch as well, so we understand what their mindset will be like. They will be dangerous.
“Hadleigh Parkes is a very direct player, and has a very long kick. But we have to put pressure on him in that channel and make sure he puts in as many tackles as he can and maybe take his mind away from other parts of his game.
“They have a very good back three, but if you have a real 10 at 10 the ball will definitely get there, so it might tighten up their game a little bit.
“They’ll use a kicking game, and they’ve picked the three at 10-12-13 as big ball carries who will be able to get over the gainline.
“They’ll come with a bit of blunt force and try to impose themselves around the gainline, which will allow their big forward pack to get around the corner and look for offloads and second-phase possession.”