Former Wales captain Matthew Rees will lock horns with his old Scarlets rival Emyr Phillips in the Specsavers National Cup this weekend.
Not so long ago, Rees was Wales’ first choice hooker and a Test Lion, while the player challenging him for a starting spot at his region was Phillips.
Now the two coaches will battle each other again when Rees’s Beddau welcome Phillips’ Carmarthen Quins on Saturday in round two of the Cup.
Phillips was the first to move into coaching when injury ended his playing career prematurely, so in one sense the tables have been reversed from when Rees was the player who could boast the greater milestones.
“Emyr is into his second season at the Quins and is also do more and more work with the Academy at the Scarlets,” says Rees, who won 60 caps for Wales and three for the Lions.
“He was certainly a hooker who I respected and now he is building a good reputation as a coach.
“Emyr and I were on the WRU Level 3 coaching course recently and now is the chance for us to put the theory into practice against each other.
“He was a really talented player who was unfortunate to get an injury to that cut short his playing career just after he picked up a few Welsh caps.
“I know it is going to be a difficult task against his side and all I can hope for is another performance like the one he had against Bridgend. We put out a mixed team for that match, but the players simply rose to the occasion and did a great job.
“My coaching philosophy is pretty simple. I ask the players to work hard in the week so they can go out and enjoy themselves at the weekend – this week will be no exception.”
Rees played all the way through until he was 38 and is loving his new role in the sport. He did some early coaching with Pontyclun and Tonyrefail before spending the past two years of his playing days at the Blues, helping out with the scrum and forwards work at Pontypridd.
Now, with Tom Slater and Ben White as his assistants, he is in charge of the operation at Beddau and is also coaching the Blues U18 side. Then there is the ‘day job’ working alongside Rob Norster at Engage Sport, allied to some media work.
This week, though, is dedicated to beating Carmarthen Quins.
In beating Welsh Premiership Bridgend, Rees and his new coaching team were able to make a statement that the Green and Golds are intent on building on their promotion from Division 1 East Central last season.
Now, they want another Premiership scalp at Mount Pleasant Park, although Beddau’s league from has been patchy.
Phillips has already had his spies out watching Beddau and knows full well that any team being coached and inspired by Rees is going to have to be taken seriously.
They warmed up with a perfect wet-weather victory over RGC 1404 last weekend, a win that included a hat-trick of driving line-out tries from young hooker Dom Booth.
“We know they are going to be strong and well drilled up front, but no team from the top-flight likes having to travel to play a team from a lower league on their own patch. Our fans will be out in force and it will be noisy and passionate on and off the field,” promised Rees.
“A bit of cup fever is just what you want in a village like Beddau, where there is such a proud rugby tradition. It is going to be a great day out for the fans and a wonderful experience for the players.
“My first Welsh Cup game was at Blackwood for Pontypridd quite some time ago, although even before that I can remember an Ebbw Vale team containing Kingsley Jones, Mark Jones and Dai Llewellyn, coming to my home town club of Tonyrefail to play.
“That was a great occasion for the club and the community and people still talk about it – just not the score!
“You know you are going to be in for a tough 40 or 50 minutes whenever you travel to somewhere like Mount Pleasant Park, then the fitness of the senior sides normally takes over.”
Specsavers National Cup – Round 2
Friday, 8 November
Cardiff v Ebbw Vale
Saturday, 9 November
Beddau v Carmarthen Quins
Merthyr v Bedwas
Neath v Cross Keys
Pontypool v Cardiff Met