Six Nations rugby chief defends Friday night opener

By Rhys Hayward
millennium stadium, cardiff David Pickering defends decision to schedule the opening fixture of the 2011 Six Nations for a Friday night

millennium stadium, cardiff

Welsh Rugby chief David Pickering has defended the decision to schedule the opening fixture of the 2011 Six Nations with England for a Friday night.

The match will be the third consecutive season in which Wales have played a Friday fixture and reactions have been mixed.

France hosted Wales on a Friday in 2009 and the Welsh returned the compliment the following year but the fixture against England marks a new turning point.

Pickering, the Chairman of both the Welsh Rugby Union and the Six Nations, defended the experiment which has been written off by some as a needless money-spinner.

Pickering said: “Friday night schedules are part of the schedule now. It is a way of progressing rugby and that is the best proof of the experiment.”

TV ratings for the fixture with France certainly compared favourably to Saturday matches, pulling in 4.6m viewers compared to 3.4m for their game against Ireland.

Fans are unsure about matches on work days however, and Ariva Trains Wales also criticised the decision, saying it was a “very inconvenient time for the thousands of fans that will watch the game”

Ariva faced the wrath of many Welsh supporters earlier this year when they failed to put on extra trains for the match against France and Cardiff’s antiquated transport system will be tested again on February 4th.

Six Nations games are traditionally played on a Saturday with Sunday games also becoming a regular part of the calendar since the introduction of Italy in 2000.

But while the atmosphere for Wales’ Friday fixtures against the French have illuminated the Stade de France and Millennium Stadium in the past couple of years, the jury is still well and truly out.

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