There’s always something special about a classic.

A little more excitement, a lot more at stake and the passion shown on the field is also felt in the stands. The build-up to derby week always adds a little extra flavor, and for players chasing places in the Six Nations, a festive schedule against their nearest rivals offers the chance to set markers.

On Boxing Day, the Scarlets face the Ospreys and the Dragons head to the Arms Park to face Cardiff, with Warren Gatland and Rob Hawley likely to be watching closely. The Kiwis are expected to name their squad for the 2024 tournament in mid-January.

There have been some notable derby day incidents over the years; The early days of regional rugby and the latter days of the previous era brought some memorable incidents of sledging, etc., sometimes resulting in the descent of red mist. Below are some:

Martin Williams x Gavin Hanson (Cardiff x Ospreys 2005)

Martin Williams is one of the greats of rugby. He is known for his ease and friendliness.

What doesn’t characterize him is losing his cool easily. But maybe he and Gavin Henson were on different wavelengths. Whatever it was, something irked Nugget the day he met Henson on the field in January 2005.

Let Hanson tell the story in his book My Grand Slam Year: “That day, Martin was stunned, as if he was in his own little world. I made a serious tackle against Ryan Powell, who was playing in the Cardiff scrum. In the next blow, I released some players and fell to the ground.

“Suddenly, Martin ran towards me and started hitting me. He also screamed. “You don’t like that on your face, do you, beautiful?! “You can’t handle this.” I managed to grab him and put him on his back, and then other players came to separate us. “What is your problem?” I told him, but his eyes glazed over. It was in another part of his mind. “I was just staring into space.”

Fair play: This is Henson’s exact recollection of these events, which even Williams agrees with.

In his own volume, The Magnificent Seven, he wrote: “I had no complaints about it, because it was all true! He hit Ryan Powell hard and he was screaming and running.

“I was like, ‘Who is Flash Harry? Who does he think he is?” and I kind of lost it with him. Emotions were running high, as they often do in Welsh derbies, and I think I got into it at that moment.

Tries from Richie Pugh and Jason Spies secured the spoils for the Ospreys that day.

Martin Williams x Jason Spies (Cardiff Blues x Ospreys 2006)

There was another fight involving Williams the following year, this time with the aforementioned Spice, a man who was not averse to embarrassing conversations and even more so during matches.

“Jason Spice is the biggest industrial trader you can imagine: tough as a boot, but he cut himself and didn’t care for 80 minutes,” laughs Shane Williams. “You should keep an eye on them.”

Someone should have told Cardiff seven years ago about the incident with the then Ospreys. 9, resulting in the only red card of his career.

Williams later recalled: “They won the penalty and I had the ball in my hands. Then I turned to get the ball, only to save a quick penalty. Jason obviously wanted to get the ball, so he ran after me and hit me on the ear and I missed it. Apparently it was a kick to the head from a football player! This was my only red. Luckily that day we won.”

Cardiff have Ben Blair to thank for the victory, who scored 25 points.

“Nugget wasn’t a dirty player, but that’s where emotions come into play,” said Tom Shanklin, Williams’ former team-mate at Wales and Cardiff. “Nobody is going to point at Martin and say he is bad because he was great and he was also captain many times. He wasn’t that kind of player. But it was against the Ospreys because you were desperate to win; It’s that fine line of trying to keep your emotions in check.”

Justin Marshall x Mike Phillips (Osprey x Cardiff 2007)

Phillips joined the Ospreys, who already had Marshall, when they met in the EDF Energy Cup semi-final at the Millennium Stadium.

Sparks were predicted to fly between the two future rivals for the Ospreys’ number 9 shirt. And he flew away.

A masterclass from Marshall earned him the man of the match award, but the following day’s headlines focused on the clash between the two halves of the fight in the tunnel.

Marshall later said: “He grabbed me by the neck after the game when I was trying to shake his hand. I was so devastated. “He was angry.”

He revealed he first crossed swords with Phillips two years ago when he played for Leeds against Cardiff.

“I swear to God, he doesn’t like me,” she said. — It was very evident after 20 minutes of play. I wasn’t his favorite. A lot of it was really personal. “You’re rubbish. What are you doing here? Bla bla bla. At that time I had played 81 Tests for the All Blacks so I thought I was OK. But in his opinion I was bad. “It was a pretty brutal approach. ”

The New Zealander said there was another fight before the match in Cardiff. “What he did that bothered me was he came up to me one night in a pub in Swansea and did it again, saying: ‘You’re an idiot.’ “I’m a better player than you and everything.” It’s overkill and you probably deserve a little push.”

In response to the introduction, Phillips said: “I saw it like this: it’s Justin Marshall, he’s played 80 games, he’s one of the best in the world and I’m going to try to beat him. I want to be the best in the world. He’s probably one of the best to ever play the game and you want to strive to be the best you can be.

“The fact that I gave the bat to the people on the field was always for me and no one else. It was to bring out the competitiveness in me or maybe I would get a little nervous or nervous at times. He was never personal with anyone. You want to win so much that you use everything you can.”

Edge comes with local derbies.

This does not mean that you should lose control. And the challenge is always to maintain composure. But sometimes, just sometimes, you can test your tolerance level. Counting to 10 is advice, however tempting it may be to do the opposite.

Stradey Park crowd against Shane Williams (more than once)

Not that Williams lost his cool, although he was perhaps lucky not to lose his temper a few times when facing the formidable Tongan player, who had a reputation for testing referees’ tolerance with his techniques and strokes. .

Salezi Finau had forearms the size of a cartoon ham and became a cult hero in Llanelli and an object of deep concern for many opponents. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that he occasionally allowed a high tackle in his game, although he did say that those tackles involved trying to clear the ball rather than hitting his head on his shoulders. Be that as it may, the Llanelli public paid tribute to him.

Often when Williams went west, the home fans would shout, “Finau will make you, Finau will get you, no, no, no, no.”

And you couldn’t blame the man himself for trying. “I remember going to Strady Park with the Ospreys and almost being decapitated several times by Salesi Finau; It was always an experience,” Williams said.

The Llanelli fans were not indifferent to Williams’ serenade. “I had just made the Wales squad and I remember going up to Llanelli and being booed from the touchline and thinking, ‘I hope you support me in the Six Nations’. But here you are, calling me every name under the sun.

But the burly little man from the Amman Valley never had any complaints. “It’s fantastic that it means so much to the fans and the teams,” he added.