Schmidt keeps coy on Cardiff roof conundrum

Joe Schmidt. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
By Brendan O'Brien

Joe Schmidt has queried Welsh motives for wanting to close the roof at the Principality Stadium roof ahead of Ireland's crunch meeting with Wales on Saturday afternoon but has refused to confirm that Ireland will ask for it to remain open.

The atmosphere at the Principality is legendary and all the more so when the roof is shut and the noise levels trapped inside. Dry and still conditions suit their style of play too and the forecast for Cardiff is for rain and blustery conditions.

The Welsh union has already made a formal request to the competition organisers that the lid remains on. Wales routinely play with the roof closed but the decision effectively lies with the visiting side in these matters.

“Last time it was closed and we arrived there and a lot was said about making it good for spectators and sprinklers were on for 30 minutes and it was very damp,” said the Ireland coach.

“Which closed is it going to be? Closed and wet, or closed and dry? If it's closed and wet we might as well leave the roof open.”

"Asked for more clarity," he added.

“At the moment, I'm not sure about the roof. Last time we said, 'we don't mind, you choose' and they chose closed and then made the field incredibly wet. We would probably be happy enough if it is open but we will adapt to the conditions.

“If the Six Nations decide it is closed we adapt to those conditions and if they decide it is open we play in those.”

Warren Gatland was also asked about the roof and, while he professed an indifference similar to Schmidt, it is clear that the Grand Slam-chasing home side would prefer to have the atmosphere contained in a sealed stadium.

“My only concern is that if it is pouring down with rain then we do have a responsibility to the game for a spectacle,” said Gatland with a straight face. There may be nine million 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.”

Much ado about nothing, basically, in the pre-match PR battle.

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