The unique jeopardy of Judgement Day V has been described by stars from the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons who will face each other in the annual double-header at Principality Stadium on 15th April.
Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys in the opening clash of the day (2.45pm) and Sam Warburton has dubbed his side’s West Wales rivals as a ‘bogey team’ which must be overcome - with both Guinness Pro12 play-off and European Challenge Cup qualification places potentially on the line.
Wales’ capital professional team are mathematically in with a chance of a top four spot in the league – they would need to pick up bonus point wins in at least four of the remaining five rounds of the competition, including JDV, and rely on the fortunes of the likes of both the Scarlets and Ulster to nosedive, to claw back a current 20 point deficit.
And for direct European Challenge Cup qualification they would probably also need to catch the Scarlets, but there will be a play-off for an extra qualification spot this year which is within easier reach (featuring the 8th and 9th placed Pro12 sides).
However, for the moment Warburton will be singularly focussed on turning over his close rivals, a team they are yet to beat at Judgement Day.
“Each time we play the Ospreys we are motivated to try to break that losing streak because at the minute they have become a little bit of a bogey team for us,” he said, ahead of the Blues’ 18th round clash with Leinster at the RDS arena this weekend (Sat).
“But it’s our home game (JDV), so hopefully the Blues fans will turn up and get behind us and we will do everything we can to try to get a win.
“I’m never going to predict anything other than a Blues win, so I’m going to go for a tight Blues win by two points, something like 26-24.”
The Ospreys are currently sitting pretty in second place in the Guinness Pro12 table and face Treviso in Italy this weekend (Sat).
Dan Biggar, who has played the most Judgement Day minutes of any player (320, matched only by Jack Dixon for the Dragons) and remains unbeaten at the event, is also looking forward to the latest instalment in April and agrees it will be a close fought contest.
“We have a good record against the Blues and we always back ourselves whoever we are playing,” said Biggar, who is relishing the prospect of playing in front of another huge Principality Stadium crowd – with over 45,000 tickets already sold.
“Hopefully we can get a win, but I’m sure it will be tough, probably a one score game.
“From where it (Judgement Day) started, to last year in terms of 62,000-plus fans attending, the improvement makes such a difference to the players.
“Playing in front of big crowds week in week out is what it’s all about for us, as is playing at the Principality Stadium which is the best stadium in the world.
“So if we can get as many people as possible, hopefully get a sell-out, it will make the day even more special for fans and coaches and for players.”
Scarlets and Wales centre Jonathan Davies, who missed the last two year’s contests plying his trade at Clermont Auvergne in France, sums up the attraction of Judgement Day as international colleagues facing each other in regional colours.
“You’re going up against friends from other regions, so there’s always personal pride to think about,” said Davies.
“So they are very tough games, it’s a great concept and I think the players love it. We are excited about it and it’s important that hopefully we get the support that the event deserves.
“Then it’s down to us as players to put on a spectacle for people to enjoy and keep them coming back again and again.”
The Scarlets are in fifth in the Pro12 and have beaten triple European Champions Leinster at Parc y Scarlets this year as well as drawn with the current European Champions, Saracens – on European Champions Cup duty.
They host Edinburgh at Parc y Scarlets this weekend and the Dragons are also at home, hosting Ulster (both tonight, Friday), for vitally important round 18 Guinness Pro12 clashes.
But Dragons lock Cory Hill agrees that round 20, Judgement Day, carries a unique extra edge.
“Come the business end of the year, to get the four regions playing on one day is great for both the fans and the players,” adds Hill.
“The Scarlets are going to be pushing for that top four and we are looking to climb the table as well, so there’s a lot on the fixture already.
“It will be a massive encounter, when bragging rights are at stake amongst all the regions.”
Prices have been frozen for the third year running at just £10 per head for each seat in the house, as Welsh Rugby pools resources for the fifth incarnation of its Judgement Day extravaganza.
Another impressive turn-out is expected after last year’s 68,262-record attendance and supporters are advised to buy in advance for the showpiece Guinness PRO12 double-derby day.
Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys in the first match of the day, kicking off at 2.45pm, swiftly followed by Newport Gwent Dragons versus Scarlets at 5.15pm.
At last year’s Judgement Day contest the Ospreys took the spoils (Cardiff Blues 27 Ospreys 40) in the first derby with the Scarlets victorious against Newport Gwent Dragons (Newport Gwent Dragons 20 Scarlets 34).
Tickets are available at £10 per person from www.wru.wales/tickets (where print-at-home is available), or by calling 0844 847 1881, in person from the WRU Ticket Office on Westgate Street or from each of the four Regions.
Season tickets purchased from either of the home teams - Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons - include access to Judgement Day V, with supporters asked to liaise with the respective box offices.