Those of you who’ve read my 6 Nations pieces will know I’m a huge fan of watching rugby in Wales – at the Millennium specifically. In spite of being Essex born and bred I’m a Welsh Gold member, just to give myself every chance of being able to get hold of international tickets. I have yet to experience Rome, but for me the Millennium is by far and away the best 6 Nations venue.
This Saturday 25th April sees club rugby come to the big stadium in Cardiff as Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys (KO 2.30pm) followed the Newport Dragons who play the Scarlets (KO 4.45pm). This will be the third Guinnness PRO 12 double-header to be held in the Welsh capital. The popular event Judgement Day III sees a crowd already approaching 50,000.
Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland has confirmed he will be boosting the numbers on Saturday to cast his eye over potential Wales Rugby World Cup squad members in the competitive surrounds of the Millennium Stadium. A dream come true for an international coach to be able to see so many if his probables and possibles on one afternoon!
The tickets for the event as a whole are £10 – that’s incredibly good value by anyones standards! This is when I wish I lived in Wales! Or at least nearby so I could go!
The Millennium Stadium manager Mark Williams is encouraging any fans of regional rugby who have yet to commit to the £10 per head ticket, to follow suit with Gatland and get their tickets early to avoid the large walk-up crowds expected on the day, with the print-at-home option available until 12noon on Saturday.
“We are expecting a few thousand fans to march on the Millennium Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to pick up tickets,” said Williams.
“That’s great news for the event and it shows how Judgement Day has really captured the imagination this year.
“We have the capacity to cope with a large demand, but we would like to strongly advise fans who want to avoid the queues to buy their tickets in advance or use the ‘print-at-home’ service which we provide online right up to and including matchday.”
The Wales head coach is flying back from a short break overseas this week and is keen to ensure he doesn’t miss the Guinness Pro12 clashes which he says will from a vital part of his selection process ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
“Judgement Day is not an event any fan of regional rugby will want to miss and we are expecting both contests to be equally revealing,” said Gatland.
“We have been planning in earnest for this World Cup for some time now, but there are some things you cannot plan for.
“The regions are approaching the business end of the season and when we name our preliminary RWC squad in June form is going to be a major factor in our decision making process.
“All of the national squad coaches will be watching even more closely on Judgement Day this year.
“There is nothing like a derby match to put players under pressure to perform and with the added extra factor of being played out at the Millennium Stadium it should be a revealing day from a coach’s point of view.
“We have a good idea of what our best team is at the moment and we have been really happy with the players in the Six Nations and particularly with the performance against Italy in that final weekend when they did everything that was asked of them.
“But there are always players that time it right and come into consideration at World Cup time when form becomes an incredibly important factor.
“You only have to look at the Sam Warburton who was named captain ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup after Matthew Rees missed out through injury and the partnership formed with Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau in the back row, to see that.
“The door is open for someone to not only play themselves into the squad but even into the starting line-up and all eyes will be on Judgement Day on Saturday to see if someone can put their hands up.
“Judgment Day is a great concept and a hugely popular event with the fans, but in a World Cup year it is just the kind of event which the coaches need to help inform the decision making process.”
The regional double-header has already surpassed previous attendance figures with over 44,000 fans having already paid the £10 entrance fee for the four-team festival of rugby and is on target to break the all-time attendance record for a Welsh regional rugby match at the Millennium Stadium.
Cardiff Blues’ 26-26 Heineken Cup semi-final draw with Leicester Tigers in 2009, which saw the Tigers win a controversial ‘penalty shoot-out’, was attended by 44,212 fans.
And the Ospreys helped bring a 41,018 strong crowd to the national ground for their 30-3 EDF Energy Trophy semi-final win over Saracens in 2008.
But now both regions are set to break their own records as well, as the all-time figure, in the all-Welsh double-derby day clash in Cardiff on Saturday week.
The only other domestic Welsh match at the Millennium with a superior crowd figure is the 2000 WRU Challenge Cup Final between Llanelli and Swansea (a 22-12 win for the Scarlets) which boasted a 49,600 attendance, in the days before regional rugby was formed, and even that figure could be surpassed.
Scarlets and Wales lock Jake Ball said:
“I love playing at the Millennium Stadium it always brings the goose bumps out in me and I can’t wait.
“I love playing for my region and any chance to play in front of all those people at the Millennium Stadium is fantastic.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the Dragons and the way in which they are playing, they obviously had a little bit of a slip up at the weekend, but it’s always going to be a tough game against them.
“Most of these big games are contested in the set piece and that’s obviously an area where we are looking to get the upper hand.
“We are in a good position now I think winning the next few games is very, very important and it starts with the Dragons.
Newport Gwent Dragons and Wales forward Andrew Coombs said:
“We all want to play in front of big crowds, to have sold as many tickets as we have is great and I’m sure we’ll get a lot more coming in through the doors in the next week.
“Everyone is getting into the spirit of Judgement Day this week and that’s what we want, we want people to come down and have a good time.
“We’ve got a job to do and we won’t take it easy on them, we want the win and we’ll go after it.
“The boys will be licking their wounds after last weekend and getting ready to go, it’s going to be a massive opportunity for us to get things right.”
Ospreys and Wales back row Dan Lydiate said:
“The Blues will be a tough match they always are. They are usually quite dogged scrappy affairs, but we are looking to get a good result out of it there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s going to be tough for us we are in the capital, they play just across the way from the Millennium Stadium so it’s effectively a home match for them which will make it battle for us.
“But I think everyone’s looking forward to it, ticket sales have gone well so there should be a really good atmosphere in there.
“This is the business end of the season so we want to pick up as many points as we can and will be focussing on the next match which is at Millennium”
Tickets are available at a new price for 2015 of just £10 from WRU.wales/tickets, where the ‘print-at-home’ option is available until 12noon on matchday, the WRU ticket office on Westgate Street, each of the four regions (see below for full details), at local Tesco stores or by calling ticketmaster on 0844 847 1881.
FULL TICKET INFO:
Tickets for Judgement Day III, costing £10 each (not including booking fees), can be purchased from:
WRU Ticket Office: 02920 822432 (www.wru.wales/tickets)
Cardiff Blues Ticket Office : 029 2030 2030 (www.cardiffblues.com/tickets)
Scarlets Ticket Office : 0871 871 8088 (www.scarlets.co.uk)
Newport Gwent Dragons : 01633 674990 (www.newportgwentdragons.com)
Ospreys : 0844 815 6665 (www.ospreysrugby.com)
or by calling ticketmaster on 0844 847 1881
or by visiting your local Tesco store.
I have to say if you haven’t bought your ticket already, what are you waiting for – help to set a new record for regional rugby in Wales and take in what should be 2 great games! You may also be able to pick the players you think should be part of the Wales team for the steadily approaching World Cup. Some lucky fans had ann added bonus when they went to buy their tickets