As Christmas day swings into view, the majority of people are looking forward to eating copious amounts of food and, perhaps, indulging in a drink or two.

But what is this period like for our nation's elite rugby players, many of whom will be playing matches over the festive period?

This weekend, the festive derbies kicked off with games at Rodney Parade and the Liberty Stadium. The players will then have a short break before another fiery clash on December 26 before a slightly longer break to the next round of fixtures on January 3 and 4.

You may believe that Christmas is ruined for Wales top rugby players, that they can't eat Christmas dinner or enjoy a tipple or two over the next few weeks.

But that's not technically the case.

Players are not issued with strict dietary guidelines as they are well-educated on the foods they should be eating and what they should be avoiding.

WalesOnline caught up with WRU national team nutritionist Jon Williams to find out what advice the players receive over the festive period.

THE BIG ONE

Most of us are already excited for our Christmas dinner, salivating at the prospect of devouring the first helpings before ploughing in for seconds.

Given that the regions have games on Boxing Day, you may assume that Christmas dinner is right off the menu, but that's not the case.

In fact, in moderation, your typical Christmas dinner is not entirely bad for you, so it's not off limits.

Some players may still delay their big Christmas meal until the 27th or leave it out altogether, but they're free to eat it if they like.

"Players will do different things," explained Williams.

"Some of them will look at the fact they have a game on Saturday and then one on Thursday and feel like they want to stick to their normal plan.

"Therefore, some of them may feel like they want to hold their Christmas dinner until after the game on Boxing Day.

"Others will have their Christmas dinner but just have less of the bad stuff on it. If you look at a traditional Christmas dinner - the turkey is fine, the veg is fine, the potatoes are fine.

"You just have to be sensible with the Yorkshires, the pigs in blankets and the desserts.

"If the boys have a mince pie or a bit of Christmas cake, it's not going to be a problem as it's over 24 hours before the game.

WRU Nutritionist Jon Williams, who also owns his own supplement company PAS

"Everybody can enjoy a Christmas dinner. It's just that the players shouldn't do what 90 per cent of the population do and eat themselves into a food coma.

"There is no reason why players can't enjoy their dinner and enjoy the day with their families. Just don't overdo it."

Where things will differ slightly is later in the day.

As Christmas day ticks towards the evening, most of us will be heading towards our second or third feast of the day. A bit of leftover turkey or an entirely new buffet of treats.

But this would be advised against for those in action the following day.

Players are more likely to revert back to what they would traditionally have the night before a match, instead of pigging out on the naughty stuff like the rest of us.

"Most players are probably going to eat a Christmas dinner and that's totally fine," said Williams. "The difference is they will probably lighten it up in the evening.

"Players are creatures of habit, so in the night players are more likely to edge towards what their traditional meal would be the night before a game.

"They'll be looking at food that sits well in the stomach and so that they're fuelled up and ready for the game.

"That could be something like a spaghetti bolognese or a meat paella. On game day, or Boxing Day, they will stick to their normal routine and then after that game on the 26th, they have a chance to open the selection boxes and enjoy themselves a little bit if they want to."

ANY BOOZE?

It's no secret that most of us will enjoy a few glasses of the good stuff over the next 10 days or so but can the players do the same?

Traditionally, professional sports teams will have their Christmas parties at the start of December, before the schedule begins to get busy with fixtures.

But there is still going to be plenty of temptation around the time the big man comes.

Alcohol in the days leading up to a game is a big no no. With just five days between the games this weekend and the Boxing Day clashes, the consumption of alcohol between now and then is not advised.

That's for a number of reasons that are likely to contribute to diminished performance levels.

"Within that period (Between this weekend and Boxing Day), alcohol consumption would be advised against for a number of reasons," explained Williams.

"It interferes with the recovery process, it reduces glycogen refuelling, it reduces testosterone levels and large amounts of alcohol would have a negative effect on the immune system, as well as the obvious dehydration factor.

"Given the break the players have between the 26th and the games in January, they would be safe to have a drink after the Boxing Day games."

He added: "We give advice to players around which drinks have more calories than others.

"We also highlight the calories in different kinds of coffees. It's just about alerting players to different places where a high calorie intake can come from."

The document given to the Scarlets players provides a fascinatingly detailed list of the calories contained in a wide variety of alcoholic drinks we are all likely to consume at some point over the festive period.

Here are the ones with the most calories and a few other favourites...

LAGERS

San Miguel: 256kcal per pint

Tuborg: 250kcal per pint

Peroni: 239kcal per pint

Estrella: 227kcal per pint

Stella: 227kcal per pint

CIDERS

Old Mout Summer Berries: 340 kcal per 500ml bottle

Rekorderlig Pear cider: 330kcal per 500ml bottle

Strongbow: 187 kcal per pint

Strongbow Dark Fruit: 227kcal per pint

SPIRITS

Whiskey and coke: 119kcal (single)

Gin and tonic: 105 kcal (single)

Vodkas and Diet Coke: 53kcal (single)

SUPPLEMENTATION

During the season, the players stick to a meticulously planned supplement regime but that is tweaked over the festive period.

Decreased sunlight over the winter months leads to decreased levels of vitamin D, so the supplement programme and menus presented to the players at their regions are altered in order to make sure everyone stays on their feet.

"Players have had a busy period with the Heineken Cup and now the local derbies," said Williams.

"For us, it's also about making sure players are well and healthy leading up to the Six Nations.

"We make sure all the players get their Vitamin D levels tested and are then given the appropriate supplementation because there is a reduced amount of sunlight during the winter months.

"All the menus within the regions are adjusted to make sure players are getting all the nutrients they need during the winter months.

"Outside of that, the players will follow their usual supplementation routines. We may introduce a beta-alanine supplement, which helps buffer the effects of high intensity training.

"That's particularly relevant for the national boys, preparing them for the Six Nations."

ALWAYS WATCHING

As we've already mentioned, there will be a lot of temptation around this time of year and players might find themselves on the verge of over-indulging.

But they know that, if they do, they'll be caught out.

This week, Williams went around all the regions and conducted tests on all of the national squad members. These revealed things like their body fat percentages.

All the players will be tested again in the first week of January, so Williams will know if they've followed the rules or been naughty.

Every other regional player has also been tested by Williams' colleague, Chris Edwards, and they'll also be re-tested early next year.

WRU Nutritionist Jon Williams with his equipment to record skinfolds

"There's no hiding place. The players know they're going to be tested and it keeps them on track," said Williams.

"It's always worked that way in Wales. Because of the geography, we can get around and see all the players. We work with the regions to provide that nutritional support.

"It's not just the nutrition side, the strength and conditioning guys and the medics are all out in the regions. The WRU provides a wholesome support service to these players when they're at their regions.

"It works so well because we have such a close relationship with the regions and we work hand-in-hand with them to make sure the players are supported as best as they can be.

"But, look, at the end of the day these boys are professionals, they know they have three games in two weeks and that they have to stay on top of their nutrition."

THE VIEW FROM THE PLAYERS

The above sentiments were echoed by Wales international and Cardiff Blues prop Scott Andrews as he discussed the topic at a press conference last week.

He insisted players can still enjoy themselves over this period. The key is to avoid going overboard.

“Obviously you’ve got to be careful on Christmas Day. You’ve got to enjoy yourself," said Andrews. “A cooked dinner isn’t too bad as long as you don’t have too many roast potatoes.

“You just use common sense. You don’t eat the full box of Celebrations. Save that for after the game on Boxing Day.

“I have done it long enough now, so I know how it works.

“I will enjoy the day, have a nice dinner and then put my feet up the rest of the day.

“You do get used to it. It’s all I’ve ever known.”