Warren Gatland has confirmed he will be joining the fast approaching 50,000-strong crowd at Judgement Day III on Saturday to run the rule over potential Wales Rugby World Cup squad members in the competitive surrounds of the Millennium Stadium.
Gatland and his fellow national squad coaches have booked their seats at the national ground to watch the Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys (KO 2.30pm) and the Newport Gwent Dragons take on the Scarlets (4.45pm) in the third Guinnness PRO 12 double-header to be held in the Welsh capital.
And Millennium Stadium manager Mark Williams is encouraging any fans of regional rugby who have yet to commit to the £10 per head ticket, to follow suit with Gatland and get their tickets early to avoid the large walk-up crowds expected on the day, with the print-at-home option available until 12noon on Saturday.
“We are expecting a few thousand fans to march on the Millennium Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to pick up tickets,” said Williams.
“That’s great news for the event and it shows how Judgement Day has really captured the imagination this year. “We have the capacity to cope a large demand, but we would like to strongly advise fans who want to avoid the queues to buy their tickets in advance or use the ‘print-at-home’ service which we provide online right up to and including matchday.”
The Wales head coach is flying back from a short break overseas this week and is keen to ensure he doesn’t miss the Guinness Pro12 clashes which he says will from a vital part of his selection process ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
“Judgement Day is not an event any fan of regional rugby will want to miss and we are expecting both contests to be equally revealing,” said Gatland.
“We have been planning in earnest for this World Cup for some time now, but there are some things you cannot plan for.
“The regions are approaching the business end of the season and when we name our preliminary RWC squad in June form is going to be a major factor in our decision making process.
“All of the national squad coaches will be watching even more closely on Judgement Day this year.
“There is nothing like a derby match to put players under pressure to perform and with the added extra factor of being played out at the Millennium Stadium it should be a revealing day from a coach’s point of view.
“We have a good idea of what our best team is at the moment and we have been really happy with the players in the Six Nations and particularly with the performance against Italy in that final weekend when they did everything that was asked of them.
“But there are always players that time it right and come into consideration at World Cup time when form becomes an incredibly important factor.
“You only have to look at the Sam Warburton who was named captain ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup after Matthew Rees missed out through injury and the partnership formed with Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau in the back row, to see that.
“The door is open for someone to not only play themselves into the squad but even into the starting line-up and all eyes will be on Judgement Day on Saturday to see if someone can put their hands up.
“Judgment Day is a great concept and a hugely popular event with the fans, but in a World Cup year it is just the kind of event which the coaches need to help inform the decision making process."
The regional double-header has already surpassed previous attendance figures with over 44,000 fans having already paid the £10 entrance fee for the four-team festival of rugby and is on target to break the all-time attendance record for a Welsh regional rugby match at the Millennium Stadium.
Cardiff Blues’ 26-26 Heineken Cup semi-final draw with Leicester Tigers in 2009, which saw the Tigers win a controversial ‘penalty shout-out’, was attended by 44,212 fans.
And the Ospreys helped bring a 41,018 strong crowd to the national ground for their 30-3 EDF Energy Trophy semi-final win over Saracens in 2008.
But now both regions are set to break their own records as well, as the all-time figure, in the all-Welsh double-derby day clash in Cardiff on Saturday.
Tickets are available at a new price for 2015 of just £10 from WRU.wales/tickets, where the ‘print-at-home’ option is available until 12noon on matchday, the WRU ticket office on Westgate Street, at local Tesco stores or by calling ticketmaster on 0844 847 1881.