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JUDGEMENT DAY V | SPORT PREVIEW

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Judgement Day is upon us: four forces, one pitch, one ball, one stadium. As monumental as the religious connotations it evokes, this is the ultimate fixture of Welsh rugby. Now in its fifth incarnation, the annual showdown of the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons has become a highlight in the rugby calendar, offering daylong entertainment in the home of Welsh rugby, the Principality Stadium. Kicking off on Sat 15 Apr, Cardiff Blues will face the Ospreys at 2.45pm, swiftly followed by Scarlets against the Newport Gwent Dragons at 5.15pm. With back-to-back action, the event will be an exhibition of Welsh rugby talent. Ticket prices are frozen once more at £10. This broad accessibility was evident in last year’s double header, where the all time attendance record of any of the four Welsh teams was broken, with over 68,000 strong turning up to the event. Living up to its title, the fixture will be significant for players and fans alike. Indeed, players will not only be playing for their fate in the PRO12, as many will also have their eye on the Lions tour. Standout performances on this immense platform would be significant in a player’s bid to prove themselves a worthy candidate to tour New Zealand this summer.

Held in the closing stages of the PRO12, Round 20, the games will have significant weighting, especially in the case of the Ospreys, who currently sit second in the table. They have seen a marked change in fortunes compared to last year, where they were placed in the bottom half of the table with the Cardiff Blues. Instead the Ospreys will be looking to conquer the PRO12 table – a top four finish already basically secured. Captained by veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones, and boasting an impressive perfect record against the Blues in their last four Judgement Day meetings, the Ospreys will be optimistic heading into the fixture.

Cardiff Blues should not be written off though. Despite only winning eight of their 17 league games, with Welsh internationals Lloyd Williams, Sam Warburton and Alex Cuthbert to draw inspiration from, they should look past the confounding statistics dooming them to defeat. Indeed, with two victories in their past three games, they would do well to build on this momentum and look forward to Judgment Day with promise. Such a big occasion requires big character – traits possessed in abundance within their roster.

Turning our attention to the Western clash between Newport Gwent Dragons and Scarlets, it is the latter who will arrive in confidence, winning 12 of their 17 PRO12 matches. Five wins from the last six games shows the Scarlets’ magnificent form Scarlets, and they’ll be hoping to secure a top four position should Ulster drop points. Their potent attack of Liam Williams, Gareth Davies and Jonathan Davies in key areas of the field will likely prove too powerful for the Dragons, with two of the three scoring tries in their 34-20 victory last Judgement Day. A Scarlets victory is expected to be the only possible outcome.

Conceding on average 40 points in their last four games, the might and flair that Scarlets possess will be a daunting prospect for the Dragons. Certainly, it is difficult not to dismiss the Dragons, but their record in this fixture speaks for itself, failing to win any Judgement Day match. Their prospects only seem to further diminish when acknowledging their four wins all season in the PRO12, only one of which has been recorded in 2017. They will certainly rise to the occasion though, and prove the titular tenacity of the Dragons.

Judgement Day V, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Sat 15 Apr. Tickets: £10.

Info: 0844 847 1881 / www.wru.co.uk

words CONOR KNIGHT

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