Six Nations: 275000 fans to descend on Cardiff for Wales v Ireland Grand Slam showdown – ITV News

Six Nations: 275000 fans to descend on Cardiff for Wales v Ireland Grand Slam showdown - ITV News

Wales and Ireland fans have been badly let down by Principality Stadium roof farce

The Principality Stadium roof will be left open for Wales Six Nations Grand Slam game in Cardiff against Ireland, despite yellow wind warnings set for Saturday.

Wales is being battered by Storm Gareth this weekend, but even though the weather forecast is set to be grim for the match, Ireland have requested that the lid is taken off the Cardiff stadium.

You could always tell that during the week of the Ireland game. There was always a bit more tension. I dont know whether it is to do with Gats time in Ireland and the history there, or maybe there was a feeling amongst our group that the…

On Thursday Ireland boss Joe Schmidt suggested that Wales might have broken Six Nations protocol by asking tournament organisers to allow them to close the roof for the match as heavy rain and 40mph winds are forecast.

For the Welsh fans it is obvious that Wales versus England is always the biggest match, but for the management and players it is Wales v Ireland. That was certainly the case during my time as a Wales player.

North Wales rail services cancelled as trains sent to Cardiff for Six Nations finale

The Principality Stadium roof will be left open for Wales Six Nations Grand Slam game in Cardiff against Ireland, despite yellow wind warnings set for Saturday

This is the big one, and not just because a win will give Wales the grand slam and a perfect send-off for Warren Gatland in his last Six Nations, but also because this has always been the big one.

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There has been a request into the Six Nations that it be closed, the Irish coach said before suggesting Wales employed dirty tricks when it was closed in 2017.

Wave upon wave of attacking phases eventually led to the opening try, from a familiar source but in unfamiliar fashion as their talismanic centre Brian ODriscoll – more renowned for virtuoso solo scores – burrowed his way over the line like a gnarly old prop.

Last time it was closed and we arrived there and a lot was said about making it good for spectators but sprinklers were on for 30 minutes and it was very damp.

Video: Shane Williams | Wales extra motivation | Attritional Ireland | Six Nations

Open Principality Stadium roof provokes furious debate

Which closed is it going to be? Closed and wet, or closed and dry? If its closed and wet we might as well leave the roof open.

The Welsh fly-half epitomised the games wild swings in momentum as much as anybody. Seconds after putting his side 15-14 up, Jones misplaced a clearance straight into touch and handed Ireland a prime attacking platform in their opponents 22.

Sportsmail understands Wales did have informal conversations with Championship chiefs, but no formal request was made.

And it is understood on Thursday afternoon Ireland notified Wales they would like it open, despite what they said in their press conference. The protocol in this tournament is that the away side make the decision.

Warren Gatland was annoyed at once again not being able to decide what happens with Wales own stadium.

“Every time we played Ireland, before the game wed talk about Ronan OGara because he was a special player,” recalls Shane Williams, who could only watch from the left wing as the kick sailed over.

My only concern is that if it is pouring down with rain then we do have a responsibility to the game for a spectacle, he said on Thursday before questioning whether Ireland were up for a closed atmosphere in Cardiff.

Some teams are able to handle that and others cant with the extra noise and pressure and what the home crowd can deliver. 

But then as the match entered its final 60 seconds, Irish replacement Paddy Wallace – who had only been on the field for three minutes – entered a ruck from the side and conceded a penalty.

Wales near end of long march to grand slam glory as England wait in wings

The Six Nations comes to a grandstand finish on Saturday with Wales chasing a Grand Slam and England and Ireland hoping to snatch the title from them.

“Luckily enough, it bounced between Shane [Williams] and Gav [Henson], and I was able to just snatch it and make it between the posts. There was a great bunch of Irish supporters there.

Wales will wrap up the title and complete their first tournament clean sweep since 2012 if they beat Ireland.

“They also still have a chance of winning the competition. Ireland were disappointed with the way they started, losing to England, particularly after beating New Zealand in the autumn.

Barring an improbably emphatic Ireland victory, England would lift the title by beating Scotland but a Scottish win would see Ireland retain the trophy.

The Breakdown: A statistical look at the fifth round of Six Nations matches

Wales are aiming to land their fourth Grand Slam of the Six Nations era, with two already won under coach Warren Gatland, who is leaving his post after this autumns World Cup.

Gatlands side are also looking to extend their national record-breaking winning run to 14 successive Tests.

As it happened: Wales 17 Ireland 26 : Ireland Under-20s clinch Grand Slam with victory over Wales

England can lift their third title in four Six Nations campaigns under Eddie Jones, while an Ireland success would be Joe Schmidts fourth in six years in his final year as their coach.

The three-way tussle for silverware has prompted a testy pre-match exchange between the title-contending coaches.

England coach Eddie Jones, asked for his views on Wales meeting with Ireland, said that Wales are “definitely tiring”, adding that “they have made more tackles than anyone else in the tournament”.

“What the hell is Eddie Jones doing talking about our game?” said Gatland when those observations were put to him.

England forwards Tom Curry, Mark Wilson and Jamie George, with 76, 71, and 67 tackles respectively, have made more tackles than any other player in the tournament.

Wales lineout problems explained: Whats gone wrong and how do they fix it?

Meanwhile, Schmidt suggested on Thursday that Wales broke Six Nations protocol by going direct to the tournament organisers to ask for the Principality Stadium roof to be closed on account of forecast heavy rain.

Six Nations: Wales v Ireland preview, team news, permutations and key stats

The roof can only usually be closed if both teams agree. It was announced on Friday that the game will be played with the roof open at Irelands request.

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson: “Super Saturday is my favourite international weekend of the year but I think Wales might well nick the Slam.”

Former Ireland wing Shane Horgan: “Its too early to say whether Ireland have recovered from the early setback against England. Wales.”

Former England fly-half Paul Grayson: “I didnt back my instincts and got it wrong in round one so Im going to go with my gut. Ireland win in Cardiff so England win the title.”

Six Nations predictions: Wales boss Warren Gatland chases a historic finish but he might fall just short

Saturday will be the 137th staging of the oldest Test in the sport with England and Scotland meeting at Twickenham 148 years on from their first encounter.

It is 36 years since they have won away to England, while their last visit ended in a 61-21 reverse that matched their heaviest defeat against their oldest rival.

England have scored 19 tries in the tournament so far, more than any other team. However, Jones has warned Scotland that they are yet to reach their potential.

“Were nowhere near our best, were just slowly getting there,” he said. “But were going in a great direction.”

Wales Under-20s 17 Ireland Under-20s 26: Wales finish fourth in standings as Irish seal Grand Slam

Despite a lengthy injury list, Gregor Townsends side will take heart from a stirring Calcutta Cup victory at Murrayfield 12 months ago when England were spectacularly upset.

“We believe we can win and thats what were working to do. Scotland teams tend to be underdogs on a number of occasions and it usually brings the best out in them.”

Saturdays Six Nations gets under way at 12:30 GMT with a match between two desperately out of form sides, Italy and France.

Italys 57-14 defeat by England in the last round was a record 21st successive defeat in the Six Nations. Their last victory in the tournament against Scotland in February 2015. and they are already assured of the Wooden Spoon.

After restricting Six Nations leaders Wales to a 26-15 scoreline in Rome and leading Ireland at half-time of a 26-16 defeat, coach Conor OShea is hoping for a third strong home performance of the campaign.

“Our focus will be on ourselves, trying to play our best rugby. We want to finish the championship with a great performance at Stadio Olimpico,” he said.

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