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Roof debate rages as Wales request closure, while Schmidt prefers match in open air

Warren Gatland wants to close the Principality roof because he says they have “a responsibility to the game as a spectacle.”

The Roof.
The Roof.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt would like the roof of the Principality Stadium to remain open on Saturday when his side meet a Welsh side eyeing a Grand Slam.

However, the Kiwi says that the call is out of his hands currently because Wales have directed a special request to close the roof directly to the Six Nations.

Ordinarily, the decision be left solely to the visiting team and Schmidt would rather the fixture remain open air as he says his last visit to the venue, a 2017 loss to Warren Gatland’s men, the turf was slicked up by the sprinklers.

“For us, I think the last time it was closed we arrived there and there was a lot said about making it good for spectators. Then the sprinklers were on for 30 minutes and the ground was very, very damp before the game started,” Schmidt said after naming his side to face the Grand Slam chasers.

“So that probably enters into our minds about which closed is it going to be? Is it going to be closed and wet, or is it going to be closed and dry?

“If it’s closed and wet, we might as well have the roof open and let the rain come in.”

Schmidt added: “Last time we said ‘look, we don’t mind, you choose.’ And they chose closed, but made the field incredibly wet at the start of the game.

“So we’ll probably be happy enough if it’s open anyway. We’ll adapt to whatever conditions the game’s played in.  And if the Six Nations decide that it’s going to be closed, well it will be closed and we’ll play in those conditions.

“And if they decide that it’s open, then we’ll play in those conditions.”

Warren Gatland Warren Gatland in Edinburgh. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Meanwhile, after naming an unchanged side, Gatland repeated the stance that a closed roof would be better for spectators, but also said that the hosts should be permitted to set up their ground however they see fit.

“My only concern is that if it is pouring down with rain then we do have a responsibility to the game as a spectacle,” said Gatland.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

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Sean Farrell

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