Players want to play in it and coaches want to be a part of it’ – says Kingsley Jones in summing up the Judgement Day experience as ticket sales for the pro rugby double-header at Principality Stadium on Saturday 15th April soar through the 50,000 mark.
The Newport Gwent Dragons coach, will send his side in search of a first victory in five Judgement Day attempts in nine-days’ time.(the Dragons went down to the Ospreys at the event in 2014 and have lost to the Scarlets in each of the other three previous clashes since 2013).
But Jones is unrelenting in his enthusiasm for the big occasion:
“Everyone gets excited and there’s a real buzz about,” he said.
“Players want to play in it coaches want to be part of it, it’s a great experience. The fact that Gavin Henson [who has recently signed for the Dragons] texted me yesterday and said I can’t wait until next year so I can play in Judgement Day, says it all really, he’s already looking at it a year away.”
And Robin McBryde, the Wales coach who will lead his country on their summer tour in June, has thrown down the gauntlet to the players on display to show what they are capable of ahead of his selection process.
“It will be a huge occasion and we as coaches want to see how the players react under that type of pressure,” said McBryde.
“Judgement Day provides a great stage for them to show what they can do. Any experience you get at Principality Stadium is special because it’s just a fantastic venue to play in, plus the fact that it’s a double-header makes it all the more unique.”
Dragons captain Lewis Evans, who was named in Wales training squads in 2009 and 2011 and has played international age grade and sevens rugby, but remains uncapped, is one who will be keen to impress McBryde but he is looking forward to the event for its own sake too.
“I’ve been involved in two [Judgement Days] so far and been injured for two so I’ve had the benefit of seeing the on and off field side of things,” said Evans.
“So as far as being a part of it it’s a fantastic thing for the regions and I know that all the boys are certainly looking forward to this one, but I think it’s fantastic off the field as well.”
Former Wales U20s captain Macauley Cook, whose Cardiff Blues side face the Ospreys in the second match of the day agrees that the atmosphere in the stadium plays a major part in the Judgement Day experience.
“There’s a massive crowd when you run out, it’s a great feeling and obviously gets you right up for the game but we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and try and win the game,” he said
But it’s not just the home grown talent who are relishing the opportunity to play on one of world rugby’s greatest stages, with two New Zealanders and an American offering their own perspectives
“The Principality [Stadium] is one of the great Northern Hemisphere Stadiums,” said Cardiff Blues and USA wing Blaine Scully.
“Every time I get to run out and represent the Blues is an honour and a privilege and the outfit we have facing us is one of the best teams in the league and it’s a really good opportunity for us.”
Kieron Fonotia, the Kiwi centre who recently joined the Ospreys from Super Rugby’s Crusaders said:
“To me I always love playing against my mates and there are a couple of boys I know really well on the [Cardiff] Blues side.
“It’s things like that [which make the event special] and just the occasion, with the crowd in there it’s going to be pretty awesome.”
And fellow former Crusader, Scarlets back Jonny McNicoll, says he is about to fulfil a lifelong ambition.
“As a young fella I always wanted to play at the Millennium, now Principality, Stadium and this will be my first crack at it and I can’t wait,” added McNicoll.
“I’ve heard there’s cheap tickets so hopefully everyone goes out and buys them for ten quid, I can’t wait to get out there in front of a potentially packed house.”
Tickets for Judgement Day V are available at £10 per person from the WRU website (where print-at-home is available), or by calling 0844 847 1881, in person from the WRU Ticket Office on Westgate Street or from each of the four Regions.
Season tickets purchased from either of the home teams – Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons – include access to Judgement Day V, with supporters asked to liaise with the respective box offices.
Write for usHave you ever wanted to write for a newspaper, but need to gain experience? Do you have your own blog?
GET IN TOUCH