Before arriving at Pontypool Park in the summer, Geraint Walsh enjoyed two highly successful stints at Pontypridd RFC. The 30 year-old lifted three Principality Premiership titles, two National Cups and one Foster's Challenge Cup, as well picking the Principality Premiership Player of the Year award in 2014.
He played in a team that contained many of the greats of the semi-professional game in Wales since the introduction of regional rugby in 2003. Despite the medals and awards collected, Walsh ranks the club's achievements against rivals Cardiff RFC during that era just as highly. The back started in and won nine derby games against the Arms Park side between 2012 and 2018.
"The Cardiff fixtures were always massive games," said Walsh. "It didn't matter how the season was going, we didn't want to be the Ponty team that lost and ended a winning streak that started before I arrived."
That understanding of what a local rivalry means to a club and its supporters will be crucial this weekend when Pontypool RFC welcome Newbridge RFC to Pontypool Park. Just 6.4 miles separate Pooler's home from Newbridge's Welfare Ground, with a large crowd expected as the sides prepare to lock horns for the first time since Pooler's 59-14 victory at the Welfare Ground in March.
On that occasion, Newbridge's Lewis Hudd saw red for a head-butt on Pooler full-back, Jordan Thomas, as the visitors registered nine tries in a convincing victory. Walsh is a cool, calm and collected character who is unlikely to be adversely affected by the added emotion that comes from a derby clash, but that doesn't mean he isn't looking forward to his taste of taking on Newbridge, if selected.
"Everyone picks their game up when you take on a local rival. I haven't been at Pontypool for long, but I understand what a derby victory on Saturday would mean to the squad and the fans.
"The Beddau game was the first time this season that Pooler fans have had a glimpse of what we're capable of. After the Tata game, we needed a jolt and we responded. We're still waiting for things to fully click, but we'll keep working and target an even better performance at home to Newbridge," said Walsh.
Victory this weekend would not only deliver Pooler's 90th victory over Newbridge in 141 meetings, but also their 29th straight victory in the WRU National Championship. It's the sort of pressure that Walsh has thrived on throughout his career.
"The best teams put pressure on themselves to perform. Winning breeds belief and confidence, which in turn frees players up to express themselves on the pitch. The squad from last year had undoubtedly created that environment and we are working to replicate that this season," said Walsh.