CARDIFF (Reuters) – Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones believes the impact of an open roof at the Millennium Stadium for Saturday’s crunch Six Nations clash with Ireland will be felt by both teams.
With rain predicted for the match, Ireland have asked for the roof to be left open, exposing the game to the elements and providing potentially tougher conditions for the teams.
“We know, as players, that it’s going to be open,” Jones told reporters on Friday.
“You’ll have to ask the Irish guys about what their mentality is. We’ve trained here on a few occasions with it open and closed. At the end of the day, the pitch and conditions are the same for both teams.”
Victory would seal a first Grand Slam for Wales since 2012 and a first Six Nations title in six years as well as extending their number of consecutive test victories to 14.
But defending Six Nations champions Ireland remain in the hunt to retain their title if they can win and Scotland claim an unlikely victory over England at Twickenham.
“In the last 18 months they’ve probably set the standard in northern hemisphere international rugby,” Jones said of the Irish.
“They’ve claimed a few big scalps and they’ve been, arguably, the most consistent team.”
Saturday’s fixture will be a last Six Nations game in charge for Wales coach Warren Gatland, who will leave his role after 12 years at the end of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Gatland won the European title in his first season with the side and Jones says they would dearly love to send him off with another victory in his last.
“He has a bit left on his contract so we won’t let him get too far ahead,” Jones said.
“But he came in with one and it would be nice for him to leave with one. There is a big 80 minutes before we can look at the romantic and sentiment side of it.”
Jones is chasing his third Six Nations title but says thinking too much about the championship will only pile the pressure on the players.
“There is pressure,” he said. “I’ve said before, the closer you get to something like this, the further away you can be sometimes.
“We’re very grounded, we know we have to work hard. In every performance we’ve had, there have been areas for improvement.”
(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)