PLAYMAKER Gavin Henson is excited by the first taste of Dragons derby “niggle” against fiercest rivals Cardiff Blues at a packed Rodney Parade.

The regional rivals lock horns in the Guinness PRO14 in Newport on Boxing Day (kick-off 2pm) with the hosts attempting to avenge October’s 43-29 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park.

Henson signed for the Dragons from Bristol last summer and the 35-year-old has already gone up against the Blues and Ospreys, two of his former sides, on enemy soil.

A pair of losses mean that Bernard Jackman’s men are still chasing a first league derby win since a success in the capital three year ago, and the fly-half says the atmosphere is already ramping up in their Ystrad Mynach training base ahead of the festive clashes.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in them, so it’s nice to be back home,” said Henson, who played at full-back for the Blues against the Dragons in the 2011 festive derby at Cardiff City Stadium.

“The Blues is a massive one for this region, there’s a bit of niggle there and I can gauge that from the boys already.

“That’s the big one for us, we are looking forward to that one and then it’s nice to have the Ospreys at home as well (on New Year’s Eve).

“We’ve played against them away and hopefully we can learn from the mistakes and how we let ourselves down and put it right.

“I remember Swansea v Llanelli and they were great days, so I am looking to this one and seeing what the Rodney Parade crowd will be like. They have been great all season so far so with a full house it will be amazing.”

Henson is no stranger to Welsh derbies having plied his trade for three regions and knows the importance of keeping cool in the heat of such battles.

In 2002 he was dismissed for throwing Garan Evans into an advertising hoarding while playing for Swansea in their heavy defeat at Stradey Park.

He said: “I don’t have a very good track record going back to the Swansea v Llanelli days when I had my red card!

“These days I am older and a bit wiser, so hopefully I can keep a calm head and steer us in the right direction.

“You don’t want it to boil over but you want that edge to it, we all love that side of it with big hits going in and a bit of niggle.

“But the big thing for us is the result. We probably let ourselves down at the Arms Park and the Liberty Stadium, so hopefully we can put that right.”

Henson signed last summer on a two-year deal with the second season already triggered by him passing the 10-game mark.

The fly-half has impressed with some classy display yet he believes there is still plenty more to come from him in a Dragons jersey.

“I feel there is a lot more to come from me, I need to put in an 80-minute performance. It’s coming,” he said.

“I have done some nice things but need to be more consistent to help the team. I like helping the players around me on training days and in the games.

“Being at 10 you need a mature head and I get off on creating for others. I’ve done a bit of it but need to do more.

“I want to try and be the best I can be. I am always looking to improve every day that I am training. That doesn’t change even though I am 35 and 36 in February.

“I still have that mindset, so as long as that continues I’ll keep playing and hopefully have a job.

“I look after myself well and hopefully I can stay up with the physicality and the fitness levels.

“I can still create space for people, so there’s enough time left for me to stay in the game.”