Ireland wary of Welsh sprinkler stroke if roof is closed

Wales have asked the Six Nations to close Principality stadium roof, citing the weather

The closed roof in the Principality Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The closed roof in the Principality Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

A debate over the Principality stadium roof - to open or to close - has broken out between Wales and Ireland ahead of Saturday’s match in Cardiff.

Usually both teams must agree but Wales are seeking to close it, citing weather concerns.

The roof was closed, on Ireland’s request, in 2017 but Joe Schmidt revealed on Thursday Wales pulled a sprinkler stroke on their visitors.

On that Friday night two years ago Ireland slipped and slid to a 22-9 defeat.

“A request has gone into Six Nations that it be closed,” Schmidt revealed but he did not initially reveal this request came from Wales.

“For us, I think, the last time it was closed. We arrived there and there was a lot said about making it good for spectators and the sprinklers were on for 30 minutes and the ground was very damp before the game started.

“That probably enters into our mind: which ‘closed’ is it going to be? Closed and wet or closed and dry? If it closed and wet you might as well have the window open and let the rain come in.”

The media, in Carton House for the Ireland coach’s last Six Nations media conference, sought clarity.

“At the moment I am not sure about the roof,” Schmidt continued. “For us, last time we said ‘we don’t mind you choose.’ They chose to close it but made the field incredibly wet at the start of the game. We would probably be happy enough if it was open anyway. We’ll adapt to whatever conditions the game is played in.

“If the Six Nations decide it is going to be closed we will play in those conditions, if open we will play in those conditions.”

So which is it?

“There has been a request from Wales in the interest of the quality of game and the very poor weather forecast that the roof be closed. They have said to the Six Nations directly that they want it closed.”

What do you want?

“We will adapt.”

Traditionally this was the visiting team’s call.

“Usually they [WALES]come to us first and ask us but I think in light of the poor weather forecast they have gone to the Six Nations.”

This, apparently, is a break in protocol.

Across the water, where Storm Gareth continues to wail, Warren Gatland expressed his concern for the incoming thousands already descending on Cardiff city: “My only concern is that if it is pouring down with rain then we do have a responsibility to the game for a spectacle.

“There may be nine million people watching it on TV but I don’t see the point having the opportunity to close the roof, to potentially play in terrible weather conditions.

“That’s a decision that is out of my hands,” said Gatland. “Both teams have to agree to the roof being closed so that means basically the away team decides what happens in our stadium.

“I have made a number of comments in the past about that. It’s our stadium and we should be able to do what we want with it.

“It is not something we have spoken about all week and we just presume Ireland would be like England and ask for the roof to be open.

“There is no doubt when the roof is closed does create more of an atmosphere in terms of the noise. Some teams are able to handle that and others can’t with the extra noise and pressure and what the crowd can deliver from a home point of view.

“Saying that I thought the atmosphere from the England game was up there with as good as I have ever heard especially the last 20 minutes. The crowd got behind us and they were amazing and if they do that again on Saturday it will be brilliant.”

To close or not to close, the decision is imminent.

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