Saturday 21 September 2019

Joe Schmidt perplexed as confusion reigns over Cardiff stadium roof for Six Nations finale

Head coach Joe Schmidt and James Ryan during an Ireland rugby press conference
Head coach Joe Schmidt and James Ryan during an Ireland rugby press conference
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Confusion reigns over whether the Principality Stadium roof will be open for Saturday's Six Nations finale between Wales and Ireland despite a gloomy weather forecast this weekend.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt says Wales have requested the roof be closed for the game, but he is reluctant to give consent because they agreed to block out the conditions two years ago and the pitch was watered anyway.

Schmidt complained about the wet pitch in the aftermath of that 22-9 defeat and he appears reluctant to go along with Warren Gatland's plan this time around.

Ultimately, it is Ireland's decision under tournament rules. England chose to keep it open for their visit to Cardiff.

"A request has gone into Six Nations that it be closed," Schmidt said.

"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.

"At the moment I am not sure about the roof. For us, last time we said we don't mind you choose. They chose closed but made the field incredibly wet at the start of the game.

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"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."

Asked to clarify his comments, Schmidt said: "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."

Asked what Ireland's preference would be, Schmidt said: "We will adapt."

Asked if it is the visiting team's call, Schmidt said: "Normally"

"I think it is pretty clear. They have made an appeal to the Six Nations. We are part of the Six Nations. We have to see what they decide now."

"Usually they [Wales] come to us first and ask us but I think in light of the poor weather forecast they have goen to the Six Nations."

A decision on the roof will be made 24 hours before kick-off. Although Wales have indicated their desire to keep the roof closed, the IRFU have not signalled their intentions to Six Nations organisers who reserve the right to close the roof if the conditions are sufficiently bad. 

"We have not heard definitively but we understand they want it open which is not a concern for us," Gatland said.

"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 maybe 9m 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. 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."

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