The success of the festive Welsh regional rugby series continues with season-topping attendances expected at both the Cardiff Arms Park and The Liberty Stadium this week.
With more than 10,000 tickets already sold for the New Year’s Day game at the Arms Park and close to 12,000 sold at the Liberty Stadium for Friday night’s derby in the West – both Welsh regions’ homes are hoping for their best attendances of the 2013/14 season.
This follows the success and profile of the Boxing Day Welsh derby fixtures at Parc y Scarlets and Rodney Parade which both hosted more than 23,000 regional rugby supporters in one day; with the Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons recording their biggest crowds of the season at both regions at 14,796 and 8,526 respectively. Cardiff Blues against the Ospreys at the Arms Park on December 20th pulled in another bumper crowd of 10,615.
The Domino’s derby series is now set for another two top-billing matches with the return fixtures of the double-headers – as Cardiff Blues host the Newport Gwent Dragons (New Year’s Day 2.05pm kick off) and the Ospreys host the Scarlets (Friday 3rd January 7.15pm).
Two more enthralling encounters await the Welsh regional coaches, players and supporters to round off the festive derby campaign, which will have drawn in an expected regional rugby audience of more than 60,000 supporters.
The coaches of the four Welsh regions were united in saying the success of the festive derbies was a big positive for Welsh rugby as a whole.
Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby Phil Davies said:
“We have got to give credit to the Dragons and the crowd at Rodney Parade was fantastic, the atmosphere was something else.
“Anyone who questions regional rugby just needs to look at these games over Christmas, it has been phenomenal. It was electric and one of the best atmospheres I have sampled in a long time.
“The year has ended, from a regional rugby point of view, with some really exciting rugby matches. Full houses here, Arms Park and the Parc y Scarlets were packed on Boxing Day and we expect the same this week.
“For me, this year has ended on a positive note for regional rugby. Look at the crowds and the performances - that is what our sport is all about. Welsh rugby runs through the veins of the Welsh people and you are seeing that now. I’m sure that support will continue into the New Year.”
Simon Easterby, Head Coach of the Scarlets said:
“The Welsh derbies give a clear focus on the level of commitment, passion and endeavour that everyone involved in the regional game gives to Welsh rugby. The players and coaches put their all into these derbies, they mean so much and it’s also reflected in our support – the crowds really have been excellent over this series."
Ospreys Backs Coach Gruff Rees said:
"Boxing Day at Parc y Scarlets everything you'd expect from a derby match. There was passion, physicality and controversy, with a full house to enjoy it.
“These games mean everything to the supporters, and you could see out t"here how much it means to the players as well. To see such a big game going right to the wire, it's a great advert for regional rugby and really pleasing for everybody involved.
"We know that there areas of our game where we need to make big improvements for next week but the quick turnaround and the double header really adds something different. There'll be another big crowd and a great atmosphere at the Liberty this week, it'll be another special occasion for everyone."
Lyn Jones, Director of Rugby at the Newport Gwent Dragons said:
“These derby fixtures have real meaning and it was great to witness the atmosphere created by Welsh regional rugby on show on Boxing Day at Rodney Parade. These games are historic, have a huge heritage and are emotive for players, coaches and supporters alike. We should do all we can to ensure their success continues.”
For more information on Welsh regional rugby please visit www.regionalrugbywales.com or follow @officialRRW on Twitter.