UNFORTUNATELY I’ll be able to tuck into my Christmas dinner this year without thinking about the build up to one of the biggest games of the year the following day.

For the first time since 2011, I will be missing out on the opportunity to play the Blues fixture over the festive period.

These are my favourite games, even though I do enjoy the Christmas Day dinner, these big fixtures are the ones when you really want to be fit and up for selection (and not too full of turkey).

Having spent most of the last few months in the gym rehabbing, it hasn’t got any easier watching the boys out on the training pitch, even when it’s frosted over and the temperature is -4 degrees.

The boys have been working hard in Ystrad Mynach to get ready for Boxing Day so confidence should be high.

We’ve shown some good form at home recently with some really strong performances up front and if we keep that going I am confident we’ll end our derby losing streak.

Hopefully I will be joining the boys back out there not long into 2018. I met up with a consultant last week for a check up on the progress after my detached pectoral muscle and hearing that things are going to plan gave a bit of reassurance.

I’ve got a rehab plan to follow that is longer than normal training when fully fit, so I am keeping busy in Ystrad Mynach as well as doing certain extras in the Parkway Hotel.

Morale can be like a rollercoaster ride when in the LTI group with the ongoing frustrations of being not allowed to touch a rugby ball for so long.

Us boys had our own Christmas jumper day with DJ Sausage on the decks while ‘shoulder club’ (me, Sam, Harri Keddie and Zane Kirchner) among others cracked on with our programme.

But we all want to leave the LTIs as soon as possible and I’ve just got to keep my head down and dig in with the aim of being back in five or six weeks.

I am on track and have Sam Beard as a guide; his injury happened six weeks before mine and he is close to a return.

I’ve tried to emulate what he has done and follow his programme, because he is going well.

But in my 11 years as a professional this is my most frustrating season after a summer Achilles niggle that wouldn’t settle and then a torn pec on my game back in October.

I’m not used to this and it’s a such a shame because this is a key season for us and to not be part of this first year under a new coach is the most frustrating thing.

You can see that things are being put in place to have a competitive team and a competitive back row next year, so everyone is keen to get back asap and contribute to the second half of the campaign.

It’s clear that there will be no excuses next year with Richard Hibbard the latest name to sign up to join us. To have a British and Irish Lion coming in is a boost and he will certainly add another dimension to our pack as a hooker who is strong in the scrum as well as around the park.

It’s all about adding more competition for places to strengthen the depth of a team and with Ross Moriarty also joining, the back row will be as strong as ever with a few new names in the mix.

I wrote about Lennon Greggains in the past and now I mention Aaron Wainwright, who has been playing really well week in, week out.

It’s fantastic to see another of the youngsters coming through and taking his chance, because he’s another of those guys that probably wouldn’t have been in the squad were it not for others’ injury misfortune.

He has come through and stood up; he’s a good kid who is learning every week.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard much about him besides Rogerstone locals talking about a boy who was coming through.

I saw a young guy who was a bit of a gym freak in the summer and next thing you know he is performing outstandingly in the XV.

It should be a good battle when all us back rowers are fit and firing next season.

On a final note, and it’s no surprise to many I’m mentioning The Lamb! But this time it’s not in the usual way of promo but I will most likely be pulling my last few pints in The Lamb on New Year’s Eve as Rich and I will be leaving in the New Year.

It’s a shame because we have met some great people and had some good memories from the last 18 months in charge, but times change and people move on.

Fingers crossed derby wins against the Blues and Ospreys will help us make it a really good send-off!