Source: INPHO

Another Boost for Wales

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The Wales squad has received more good news: the last round of next year’s Six Nations will take place at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. They play Italy on 27 April.

This won’t be their first appearance there, but the previous one was against the Barbarians four years ago.

Once more you can sense the positive input of Nigel Walker, the interim CEO of WRU. The new permanent appointee, Abi Tierney, doesn’t take over till the end of the year.

The board was encouraged by the size of the crowd at the last England match – played at the adjacent Arms Park ground, but the jump from that 8,000 crowd to filling the national stadium is a giant one, and Le Azzurre don’t have quite the same pulling power as the neighbours from across the Severn Bridge.

Still, we need think only of the Red Roses’ rapid rise from their first 5-figure crowd four years ago at Sandy Park, Exeter to the 58,000 at HQ last season to see what is possible.

Walker has pointed to a target similar to the RFU’s: he wants to see a full Principality Stadium when England pay their next visit in 2024. So the contest is a full national stadium versus a full Twickenham for the 2025 World Cup final; a new rugby rivalry.

The day’s agenda cunningly includes the women’s community plate and cup finals, which should ensure even more fans eager to attend. The thrill of appearing at the national stadium simply cannot be underestimated for the fortunate few to catch the selectors’ eye.

Even the most neutral of rugby fans consider the Principality Stadium as the greatest in the world, and not only when the roof covers the skies.

Heavy Lifting

An unwelcome problem for Wales is the waning support for the men’s team. Cameras have shown worrying gaps in the stands for 6N matches, unthinkable in the past. If the men’s squad don’t put on a decent show in the current RWC in New Zealand, the women will have to do the heavy lifting.

Tierney doesn’t have a background in rugby, but she is a proven expert in the world of organisation and delivery. Those skills will be put to the test when she takes over the reins.

In the meantime, the Welsh squad must be feeling even more buoyant after the improvements Walker has masterminded over the past year or so. It remains to be seen how this upbeat feeling translates into success on the field. The one does not follow automatically from the other.

Now other members of the Six Nations brigade will be raising an eyebrow at their union boards. When do we get to play in our national stadium?

Round 5 Fixtures
27 April 2024

Wales v Italy, KO 12.15
Irelad v Sotland, KO 14.30
France v England, KO 16.45