The countdown is on until Judgement Day III at the Millennium Stadium and four members of the Wales squad donned regional colours and took time out of international preparations, to reflect on the home rivalries the annual double Welsh derby day provokes.
Wales captain Sam Warburton, whose Cardiff Blues side take on the Ospreys at the national ground on Saturday 25th April at 2.30pm - before the Newport Gwent Dragons face the Scarlets at 4.45pm in the GUINNESS PRO12 double header – says taking to the Millennium Stadium field as opposition to international team-mates gives extra spice to the fixture.
“Even today some of the Scarlets boys were having a dig at the Dragons over lunch, but it’s all friendly stuff when you are in camp,” said Warburton.
“There are some great friendships across the four teams, but when you go out onto that pitch you give everything for your region, put friendships aside for that 80 minutes.
“But you’re the first ones to go up to each other and shake each other’s hands after the final whistle.
“Last year I missed it because I dislocated my shoulder, but the year before was a cracker against the Ospreys and I really enjoyed that. The players love it especially those guys who are not in the national setup, it’s a great chance for them to play at the Millennium Stadium.
“Welsh derby days are often more intense than the European matches, very fiercely contested and they really excite the crowds. The guys know that it is a shop window for international selection, but the priority is you want your region to finish on top when it comes to rankings.
“We haven’t had a great record against the Ospreys of late, but we’ll be quietly confident because it’s our home fixture. Hopefully with it being in Cardiff a lot of Blues fans will turn up for us.”
Dan Biggar, who will stand squarely behind his captain when Wales face Ireland in that potential RBS 6 Nations decider in Cardiff next weekend, is also relishing the thought of Judgement Day III which will pit him firmly against Warburton.
“You know each other’s game inside out and it’s a real test,” said the Ospreys and Wales fly-half.
“You know boys who you train against week in week out, when you come into Six Nations and Autumn camp and that produces a special kind of rivalry which comes out when you get back to your regions.
“Overall Judgement Day has been reasonably successful for us and we’ve picked up a couple of vital wins.
“But it’s a great occasion in itself, to play in front of a big crowd at the Millennium Stadium is awesome as everyone will tell you.
“We’ve got a good record against the Welsh regions but it’s going to be tough, it’s a home game for the Blues and they will have a lot of support behind them, but we will be hoping to come out on top.”
No sooner than the final whistle is blown on the Blues versus Ospreys match then the Newport Gwent Dragons and Scarlets will take centre stage and that means Wales colleagues Taulupe Faletau and Jake Ball facing off in their respective packs.
“All derby games are massive, but Judgement Day takes it up to an extra level.” said Ball.
“It’s an opportunity to play in front of a wide range of fans not just Dragons and Scarlets fans and the fact that you get to play in front of a massive crowd at the Millennium Stadium, which everyone loves, adds to the whole occasion.
“The atmosphere was great last year, but results-wise it wasn’t the best for us against the Blues, so we will be hoping we get back on the right track this year.
“For that 80 minutes there’s no friends out there and the atmosphere at the Millennium stadium is fantastic, there’s something about it that just traps the noise in there and it’s a great playing experience.”
Faletau, whose Dragons side have gone down to both the Scarlets and the Ospreys in previous Judgement Day meetings, will be looking to get one over on his international team-mates this time out.
“We haven’t got the results we wanted there the last two times we’ve been but we will be looking to do better this time around,” said Faletau.
“Judgement Day is a unique occasion with all the four of our professional teams in Wales on the same day playing one after the other. It’s a great chance for the supporters to get down there and support all four regions and for the players to get one over on their mates.
“It’s always good to play against all your mates and hopefully get bragging rights over them.
“I guess friendships go out of the window for that 80 minutes. You’re friends off the pitch, but once you are on you play for your team and it’s the result that counts.
“The Millennium Stadium is a great stadium, known world-wide and anyone would take up the opportunity to play there.”
Cardiff Blues host the Ospreys to kick-off the third incarnation of the back-to-back matches at the national ground at 2.30pm, before Newport Gwent Dragons welcome the Scarlets to town in a match which kicks-off soon after the final whistle is blown on the first (4.45pm).
Tickets are available at just £10 from WRU.wales/tickets, the WRU ticket office on Westgate Street, each of the four regions (see below for full details) or by calling ticketmaster on 0844 847 1881.
FULL TICKET INFO:
Tickets for Judgement Day III, costing £10 each, can be purchased from:
WRU Ticket Office: 02920 822432 (www.wru.wales/tickets)
Cardiff Blues Ticket Office : 029 2030 2030 (www.cardiffblues.com/tickets)
Scarlets Ticket Office : 0871 871 8088 (www.scarlets.co.uk)
Newport Gwent Dragons : 01633 674990 (www.newportgwentdragons.com)
Ospreys : 0844 815 6665 (www.ospreysrugby.com)
or by calling ticketmaster on 0844 847 1881