Wales coach Robin McBryde believes the upcoming Judgement Day can serve as a final trial match before he selects his national squad for what he calls an “incredibly tough” summer tour.
On Saturday 15th April, an intriguing battle of East versus West will play out at Principality Stadium, with a double-header of Cardiff Blues v Ospreys (14:45) and Newport Gwent Dragons v Scarlets (17:15) set to renew old rivalries.
“Next weekend in Cardiff will be a huge occasion and we as coaches want to see how the players react under that type of pressure,” says McBryde, who heads up the Welsh coaching team this summer. “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.”
Over 50,000 tickets have already been sold for one of the biggest days in the Welsh rugby calendar, and McBryde and co. will be paying close attention as they consider selection for the two-Test tour in June against Tonga and Samoa.
Does he see Judgement Day as a final trial for those fighting for a place on the plane this summer? “It’s not far off,” McBryde admits. “There’s no longer any Welsh involvement in European competition, but there are still things to play for, such as trying to get into the top four and possibly European qualification for next season. That said, it doesn’t allow for a lot of time after Judgement Day for them to make an impression on us, so next weekend will be very important.”
McBryde intends to name his squad a week after the British and Irish Lions announce theirs, mainly to allow the selected players to get into the mindset of preparing for the tour. Wales will then spend a week in North Wales, culminating in a match against high-flying RGC in Parc Eirias. “Some players might need a break at the end of the season, so we’ll factor that in with regards to preparing for our spell in North Wales,” he explains.
Recognising the fine line between players who are battle-hardened and battle-weary means an intense week of training will be carefully managed. “Time off is going to be important for the players, bearing in mind that we need to be fresh for the tour,” says McBryde, who gained the first of his 37 Wales caps in a tour of the Pacific in 1994. “Having been to Samoa myself, we’ll know what to expect. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be humid, so we need to be smart with regards to the sort of training we do during that last week over there.”
McBryde says his team will head to the southern hemisphere in bullish mood. “We’ll have a good amount of rugby knowledge with us. It’s a pretty settled group from a management point of view. I know we’ve got three new coaches [in Stephen Jones, Matt Sherratt and Danny Wilson] but they’re very experienced guys who’ve been around a long time, either as players or as coaches. We’ll use that knowledge to the best of our ability.”
According to McBryde, the next few weeks, and indeed months, should be seen as a time of opportunity for current and aspiring Welsh internationals. The shop window doesn’t get much bigger than the one on offer in the capital city next Saturday. “Nobody in Wales has an excuse not to be there,” says McBryde in closing. “It makes for an exciting climax for the supporters.”
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.
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