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Indigo Premiership Preview, 10th-12th November

*Odds will appear on the day of the match

Nico Matawalu has played in some bone-shuddering derbies – Fiji v Tonga, Fiji v Samoa, Glasgow v Edinburgh, and Montauban v Colomiers in France.

But he’ll have a new version to add to his list by Saturday night when the Fijian international plays for his current club, Pontypridd, at home to Merthyr.

It might not have the sunshine of his South Seas battles, or the media attention claimed by the big city Scottish clash, but the Valleys dust-up in the Indigo Premiership on Saturday is unlikely to leave Matawalu with fewer bruises – provided Merthyr can catch him, that is.

“It is a local derby; they are always tough,” says the 33-year-old scrum-half who joined Ponty in the Indigo Premiership transfer coup of the year in the summer.

“We know they are an excellent side. We will have to be disciplined and we will have to work hard if we want anything from the game. We need to start well and hopefully we can build from there.”

It has not been quite the smooth sailing Matawalu might have imagined since he moved from French rugby to Sardis Road.

Ponty are currently down in eighth place in the Premiership table, with just two victories from six matches played.

Merthyr will be favourites when the clubs – just 12 miles apart along the A470 – clash, thanks to the impressive start to the season by the Ironmen.

They have won four of their six games played and are still within striking distance of the top three – Aberavon, Cardiff and Llandovery.

Ponty are also coming off a recent home defeat to Llanelli, when they were edged out, 31-29.

But Matawalu insists: “It is good that we can get back out there this week, we can implement the changes quickly.

“They boys are playing some good rugby, but we have struggled to keep that intensity for the entire 80 minutes, so we need to be more consistent.

“We need to be patient; we have to stick to our jobs and keep doing them as well as possible.

“We are confident as a group that the things we are working on will come together. You know rugby sometimes you are on a high and sometimes you are struggling, that’s rugby. But our discipline has been letting us down.”

The weekend’s action in the Indigo Premiership is spread across three days with Llanelli kicking things off at home to Llandovery on Thursday night, a match that is live on S4C Clic and their Facebook page.

Llandovery have received a significant boost ahead of their derby with electric wing Harri Doel re-joining from Worcester Warriors.

His signing will significantly strengthen Euros Evans’ side who sit third in the Premiership table, just six points off top-placed Aberavon.

“The first thing to say is that it will be great to play rugby again, and especially for my hometown club,” said Doel.

“I first went there at the age of seven or eight, so I’m excited to return and play for them once more.

But Llanelli will be encouraged by that win at Ponty and coach Phil John, the former Scarlets front rower, believes his side are starting to find their best form.

“We have had a difficult start to the season,” says John.

“It has been a very inconsistent start. I’ve been reasonably happy with the performances, but we haven’t been pulling off results off late.

“So, I was pleased with the determination against Pontypridd. We started the game well, but we probably allowed Pontypridd back into the game, but it was pleasing to see the boys compose themselves and take back the initiative.

“We were able to step back into the ascendency at the right time, but now we need to keep that up going into the next few games.”

On Friday night, the focus switches to leaders Aberavon, who are at home to fifth-placed Ebbw Vale.

The Steelmen enjoyed a convincing win at home to Swansea last time out, but will be underdogs against a Wizards side who have only lost once this season – although that was also in their most recent game before the international break, a 30-20 defeat at Newport.

The derby feel of the weekend continues on Saturday when Bridgend host Cardiff, a fixture that used to be one of the home club’s biggest pay-days of the year when it came to bar takings in the clubhouse.

The beer count may be down on those days, but the rivalry will be just as intense as the Ravens bid to overturn the form book, which currently sees them rock bottom of the table.

Cardiff, meanwhile, are up in second and are the only club in the Premiership who remain unbeaten.

Also on Saturday, Carmarthen Quins – just a place above Bridgend – host Newport, who are only third from bottom themselves.

But Newport will be firm favourites, having finally found their form with that convincing recent win over Aberavon.

Finally, Swansea receive a visit from RGC to St.Helen’s, with the All Whites and the north Walians both in mid-table.

RGC might be the punter’s choice, having beaten Bridgend in their last game, while Swansea were beaten by Ebbw.

 10 November, 2022

Llanelli v Llandovery (19.30)

11 November, 2022

Aberavon v Ebbw Vale (19.30)

12 November, 2022

Bridgend v Cardiff (13.00)

Carmarthen Quins v Newport

Pontypridd v Merthyr

Swansea v RGC

*Odds will appear on the day of the match

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