Rugby

Gregor Townsend happy to deny Wales advantage by keeping stadium roof open

Tournament regulations say both sides must agree to have the roof closed.

Head coach Gregor Townsend has explained Scotland’s decision to close the Principality Stadium roof in Cardiff on Saturday
Gregor Townsend Head coach Gregor Townsend has explained Scotland’s decision to close the Principality Stadium roof in Cardiff on Saturday (Steve Welsh/PA)

Gregor Townsend has defended Scotland’s decision to keep the Principality Stadium roof open for their Guinness Six Nations opener in Cardiff.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland called the decision “disappointing”, saying it would impact upon the atmosphere and noise in the 74,500-capacity stadium.

Tournament regulations say both sides must agree to have the roof closed.

The Principality Stadium roof will remain open for the Guinness Six Nations opener between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff
Wales Captain’s Run – Principality Stadium The Principality Stadium roof will remain open for the Guinness Six Nations opener between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff (David Davies/PA)

Scotland head coach Townsend said: “I thought we had 48 hours to decide, but they said on Wednesday you have to come to a decision.

“I looked at the forecast and it looked quite nice, I’d much prefer playing with the roof open if we can.

“It’s noisier when the roof’s closed, that’s why they’re disappointed. They don’t get that (advantage).

“If the pitch is greasy it’s not great conditions, but it would be better playing in heavy rain. When we looked, it was good weather with 20 to 30 per cent chance of rain in the morning.”

Rain is actually now forecast in the Welsh capital on Saturday evening, with the game kicking off at 4.45pm.

But Townsend remains philosophical should that happen, saying: “I hope the weather stays dry, we want it to be a dry day.

“If that’s the case the conditions will be better because the ball does get greasy and sweaty when the roof’s closed.

“You play rugby at every other ground that doesn’t have a roof. So you play in the dry and the wet.

“If it’s a wet day it will be trickier to move the ball, but I have confidence our players can do that, or find another way to put pressure on the opposition through defence and a kicking game.

“I hope it’s rain in the morning and dry in the afternoon, but we do play in the winter in our sport so players are used to a wet ball.”

Scotland have not beaten Wales in Cardiff since 2002, a day that former outside-half Townsend recalls “wasn’t a great game to play in but I have more fond memories of now”.

Wales have won 11 successive times in Cardiff – nine Six Nations games, a World Cup warm-up and an Autumn Test – although Scotland did win a Covid-impacted contest at Llanelli in 2020.

Townsend said: “We don’t talk about why we’ve struggled here in past but we talk about the record.

“Not many have played throughout those years, although a few played here two years ago when we we didn’t perform and produce our best rugby.

“You have defeats and wins in your Test career and the one against Ireland (the 36-14 loss at the 2023 World Cup) is more in our minds than the one two years ago, and certainly those 10 or 20 years before that.”

Scotland full-back Blair Kinghorn misses out after picking up a knee injury playing for Toulouse last weekend.

Glasgow’s Kyle Rowe deputises to makes his first international start, his only previous cap coming away to Argentina in July 2022 when he appeared as a substitute and lasted only 10 minutes before damaging his ACL.

“Blair didn’t think he’d thought be out this week, but we had the scan done in camp and he will be out for the first two games,” said Townsend.

“We’re really pleased with Kyle’s form and see him as someone comfortable in that position, and it’s really important we’ve got someone with confidence coming into such a big fixture.”

Townsend says the game has “come a couple of days too soon” for recently appointed co-captain Rory Darge, who has been sidelined by a knee injury, so outside-half Finn Russell leads the side.