Welsh grumble as Kidney turns down late request to keep lid on Cardiff clash
MUCH fiddling on the roof ahead of today's Six Nations showdown between Wales and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium, with Wales claiming it was a pity Ireland did not want it closed, the Irish saying they were never asked and then, when they were, calling for an open policy.
As they should. Closing the roof hands the atmospheric advantage to the side with the most supporters, a la Munster against Toulouse in 2008.
Wales knew this, Ireland were equally aware, and with the procedure giving the visitors the right to decide, the roof was never going to close.
The issue created a small bit of a stir yesterday after a week when both sides were at pains to talk each other up, the Welsh mindful of 2009 when coach Warren Gatland's trash talk backfired spectacularly.
It began with Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde who said: "It's a shame they want the roof open -- we would like to have given them a warm welcome with the roof closed.
"I am not sure what the weather forecast is, but if the weather was to play a part in the outcome of the game, I think it would be a shame. There is no point having a roof on the stadium otherwise."
Then, when Ireland coach Declan Kidney (who had indicated his blue sky thinking earlier in the week) was questioned an hour later, he said Wales had not approached the visitors on the issue.
"To my knowledge, the thing is we would be asked within 48 hours, but we did not get any official request and we weren't asked," said Kidney. "You can only answer the question when you are asked."
Following the Irish press conference, Ireland did get the official question -- within the allowed time -- and stated their preference for an open roof. Case closed.
Of greater relevance to the result today is the performance of referee Jonathan Kaplan and Kidney pointed out that, for all the talk of Irish indiscipline, Wales have actually conceded more penalties in this championship.
"I know from the stats that Warren has had to talk a lot more to his players than I have had to talk to mine," said Kidney.
"We will talk to the referee too, and we have been following the progress of the coaches who have publicly talked about referees. It seems to have worked in their favour in the past. Hopefully, it won't do so in the future.
"I know it's taken a bit of media coverage over the last week or two, but I'm not worried, I trust these guys."
Earlier in the week, Kidney expressed his satisfaction with Kaplan taking charge and McBryde echoed those sentiments yesterday.
"We're well aware of Jonathan Kaplan's refereeing, he refereed us in the second Test over in New Zealand. We had a discussion with him following that game, and looking ahead to tomorrow's game, we're looking for a fast, free-flowing game," said McBryde.
"I think he rewards positivity, he's the type of referee who likes to see an open and expansive game, and we really look forward to being under him tomorrow. I think the game will be a good one because of it."
McBryde, who confirmed that Andy Powell has been ruled out and that Jonathan Thomas would be on the bench alongside Rob McCusker, also disagreed with the perception of Ireland as a 'dirty' team.
"The best teams get away with what they can get away with on the day," said McBryde. "The referee on the day makes his decisions. We'll just knuckle down and control what we can control."
Plenty of fresh air then for today's clash. Ireland will be hoping not too much of it is turned into blasts on Kaplan's whistle.