Judgement Day is again on target to break the Guinness PRO14 season attendance record – with 40,000 fans already booked in to see their Grand Slam heroes return to Principality Stadium.
Sales are soaring with less than a month until the double header, which sees the Scarlets and Dragons go head to head at 3.00pm, before Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys at 5.15pm on Saturday 27th April, in the annual face-off between Welsh rugby’s four professional sides.
After 36,000 showed for the inaugural Judgement Day event in 2013, supporters have continued to turn out in their droves and the last three events have attracted crowds of over 60,000, providing the lead attendance figures for any round in the competition on each occasion.
At last season’s back-to-back JDVI clash 62,338 again made it the highest attended event in the Guinness PRO14 calendar, beating the Final which was watched by 46,092 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
"This will be my first experience of Judgement Day and I'm really excited for the occasion,” said the Blues head coach John Mulvihill.
“It’s fantastic to hear that more than 40,000 tickets have already been sold, and having seen the Principality Stadium in full flow over the Six Nations, it’s set to be a memorable evening of rugby in the capital.
“I watched last year’s Judgement Day from Australia and what struck me was the intensity of both matches and the fantastic and unique atmosphere created when you have fans from all four regions coming together.
“This year we could have three teams still in the hunt for a play-off spot, and that added jeopardy could raise the roof at the stadium. I can’t wait.
"One of our aims at the start of the season was to become the best region in Wales.
“There's no better platform than Judgement Day to prove this and a win over Ospreys would mean we've got five victories from our six derby matches this season, so there's a lot to play for.”
JDIV, in 2016, remains the best attended to date, after it broke every attendance record in the history of Welsh domestic rugby when 68,262 supporters took their places under the national stadium’s famous retractable roof.
The previous Welsh domestic record was set when 58,000 fans attended the Neath v Llanelli WRU Challenge Cup Final in 1989 and the record for any match involving a region had been the Ospreys’ victory over Leicester Tigers at Twickenham in the EDF Energy Cup Final in 2008 – which was watched by a 65,756-strong crowd.
The showpiece JDVII event has extra impetus this year with Wales’ unbeaten 2019 Guinness Six Nations heroes due to collide in regional colours and places in the Guinness PRO14 knock-out stages also likely to be on the line in each game, so a 73,931 capacity crowd has to be the target.
“The play-off race is going to go down to the wire, so there’s no doubt the matches are going to be tasty affairs as they always are,“ said Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac, whose side won the competition in 2017 and reached the final in Dublin last year.
“Whenever you get in front of a big crowd like that we all enjoy it as do the coaches. We love a good atmosphere.
“It makes for a good day out for everyone and hopefully we will get another big crowd. It’s a great stadium with massive history.
“Every young player wants to go out there and play. Even our international players who have played there many times think it is a special occasion.
“It’s also a big opportunity for a lot of players who haven’t been playing Test rugby to go and show Warren Gatland that they can perform on the big stage.”
JDVII sees Wales’ four regions play-out the 21st and final round of conference stages in the Guinness PRO14, with places in the knock-out stages likely to be achievable for the Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues, dependant on other results over the next few weeks.
The top three teams from each conference progress to the knock-out stages of the competition, with the ultimate aim of a place in the 2019 Guinness PRO14 Final in Celtic Park, Glasgow, in May.
“It’s always a big occasion for Welsh rugby with a huge crowd and a fantastic atmosphere,” said Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke, whose side have won the league, in its various guises, on four occasions themselves (2005, ‘07, ‘10, ‘12) – a feat only surpassed by reigning Champions Leinster who lifted their fifth title last season.
“We hope there’ll be plenty ridiing on the game in terms of qualification and play-offs.
“However, regardless of league placings there’s always regional rivalr and pride at stake.”
Tickets are priced at £25 middle tier and £15 for both lower and upper tier adult access - with the £10, U16 concession ticket available for all lower and upper seating, to ensure the family event is accessible for all.
“Derby matches are always the games that players, fans and coaches look forward to most in a season and to finish the PRO14 fixtures with a real sense of occasion and an end of season finale makes it an exciting for all involved,” added Dragons head coach Ceri Jones.
“Playing the Scarlets is always a massive challenge, but coming up against one of our local rivals off the back of the Wales Grand Slam success at Principality Stadium is a fitting climax to the season as players go head to head in pushing their claims for involvement in the Rugby World Cup and for regional pride.
“It’s sure to be a fantastic experience for all four teams and the fans.”
Print at home tickets, which don’t incur a postage charge, are available in all categories, with normal booking fees at £1 per ticket and post & packaging at £3 via www.wru.co.uk/tickets
JUDGEMENT DAY VII, Saturday 27th April, Principality Stadium:
Dragons v Scarlets – Kick Off 1500hrs
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys – Kick Off 1715hrs