Stadium roof not an open-and-shut case

Ireland have fared well in Cardiff in recent years playing with the roof open

Speaking after the team announcement in Carton House, Gerry Thornley and Gavin Cummsikey preview Ireland's crucial Six Nations match with Wales. Video: Daniel O'Connor

 
Stuart LancasterHymns and Arias

The England coach believed the din was worthwhile despite that the match was due to be played with the Millennium Stadium roof open.

Simmering

In 2013 England travelled to Cardiff to face Wales in a Grand Slam decider. But with heavy rain predicted for the area both sides agreed to play “indoors”. The roof was closed, the noise ratcheted up, as did the Welsh players and the English defeat is now history.

It’s the annual mini dispute waiting to happen with Wales coach Warren Gatland insisting that the roof on the stadium should be a matter for Wales and not their guests. The understanding now is both sides must agree to close the roof, otherwise it remains as God made rugby, an outdoor sport.

Ireland’s preference is for clear blue skies on Saturday with benign weather conditions forecast, while Gatland typically holds the alternative view, although with the mind games he plays little is shot straight from the hip.

Since 2001, when a Keith Wood-led Irish side beat Wales 36-6 with tries from Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll and Denis Hickie, the roof – according to the Six Nations – has been open for all of Ireland’s championship matches.

Second Captains

In all there have been seven games with Ireland winning five and losing two.

In 2005 Wales won 32-20 and in 2011 they won again 19-13. But in the run of fixtures since the start of the millennium, the open roof has been kind to the Irish cause in Cardiff.

Testified

World CupMartin Johnson

Lancaster also pointed to communication problems between the players as they couldn’t hear each other shouting commands for plays and lineouts. But even with the roof closed Irish players have performed well, although in each of the four Heineken Cup appearances, they have never faced a Welsh side.

In 2002 Leicester beat Munster 15-9, the hand of Neil Back on a Peter Stringer scrum put-in playing it’s part in the Tiger’s win. But in 2006 Munster came back to beat Biarritz 23-19 and again in 2008 defeated another French side Toulouse 16-13 both of those wins under the closed roof.

In 2011 it was Leinster’s turn and, with the help of an inspired Johnny Sexton in the second half, they overhauled Northampton 33-22. Of the four Heineken Cup finals involving Ireland, the Irish teams have won three, all of them under the closed roof.

Ireland’s most recent 22-30 win in 2013 is perhaps most relevant as nine players, Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo, Sexton, Conor Murray, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Peter O’Mahony, Seán O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip started for Ireland then and are again in Joe Schmidt’s starting team on Saturday. The noise from the close to 80,000 fans, most of them Welsh, is certain to be loud and while Schmidt has not had the loudspeakers blaring at Carton House, the roof will be as it was when most of his side won last time out.

Not to be out done, the Welsh win/loss record over the years with the roof open and closed looks very even.

Autumn internationals

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