Players and super-fans from each of the Welsh regions met up at the WRU National Centre of Excellence to try to establish a pecking order ahead the upcoming series of Guinness Pro12 derby matches - using a traditional tug-of-war contest as their yard-stick.
Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin faced Wales captain, and Cardiff Blues flanker, Sam Warburton, in the first of four fascinating match-ups, which also saw Newport Gwent Dragons wing Hallam Amos face-off against Scarlets hooker Ken Owens.
The tugging contests, which were also repeated with super-fans from each of the four regions joining their heroes on the rope, were designed to reflect the pitch battles in prospect for Judgement Day IV at Principality Stadium on 30th April – and the results can be found online on WRUTV.
“Every year it has just got bigger and bigger with more attention around it from all quarters and from what I know this year it’s going to be another massive crowd so I’m really looking forward to that,” said Warburton, looking forward to the fourth instalment of the Judgement Day fixture – the derby day double header when the Blues face the Ospreys and the Dragons face the Scarlets in consecutive matches under the Principality Stadium roof.
“In the Pro12 we had a difficult start, but we are still chasing that top six spot, it’s going to be difficult but is still potentially achievable.
“If you look at the table and our home record is actually okay for the Blues, we’ve got a pretty good home record.
“We play the Scarlets away from home first and then Judgement Day against the Ospreys is our home fixture.
“The derbies is when we really want to play well. The national squad players have been in camp with Wales now 2 months and before that we were in camp for five months with the world cup.
“You get to know each other very well, but when you go on the pitch you’ll still go as hard as you can.”
Baldwin too is relishing the prospect of facing his international team-mates in regional colours at Principality Stadium in April, and for the preceding Guinness Pro12 derby matches at home venues around Wales, and he says the pressure is increased on players because they know each other so well.
“I know the boys really well, but that doesn’t take away from the intensity it actually puts more pressure on because you know you are going to have to perform because everyone knows everyone is competing against each other.” said Baldwin, who also knows that over 40,000 tickets have already been sold for JDIV.
“The atmosphere generated by the biggest crowd you play in front of at regional level in Wales is something to experience.
“I think there were 50-odd thousand last year, so playing in front of that size of a crowd for your club is a massive honour and something you don’t take lightly.
“Cardiff and where I’m from in Bridgend is obviously quite close, so it’s always nice to try and get one over on your local rivals.
“So it’s something I really look forward to it’s something you look forward to, we have a proud record against the Blues in recent years and it’s something we won’t want to let slip this time.”
|THE BIG SIX WELSH DERBIES: |
Ospreys v Scarlets - Sat 26th March, Liberty Stadium – kick off 3pm
Dragons v Ospreys - Fri 1st April, Rodney Parade – kick off 7.05pm
Scarlets v Cardiff Blues - Sat 2nd April, Parc y Scarlets – kick off 3pm
Cardiff Blues v Dragons –Sun 17th April, BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park – kick off 2.30pm
JUDGEMENT DAY IV Saturday 30th April 2016, Principality Stadium
Match 1: Cardiff Blues v Ospreys - kick off 2.30pm
Match 2: Newport Gwent Dragons v Scarlets - kick off 5pm
Four Welsh derbies at the home of the Pro teams in Wales will culminate in the showcase event at Principality Stadium - Judgement Day IV, the Guinness Pro12 derby double-header to be played on Saturday 30th April, which has already sold over 40,000 seats at Principality Stadium and remains well ahead of record sales figures hit last year.
Tickets for Judgement IV have been frozen at 2015 prices and can be purchased now at £10 per person (booking fees apply) from www.wru.wales/tickets
, by calling 0844 847 1881, in person from the WRU Ticket Office on Westgate Street, from each of the four regions or from a Tesco store near you.
Season tickets purchased from either of the home teams – Blues and Dragons – include access to Judgement Day IV, with fans asked to liaise with the respective box offices.