Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Welsh rugby fans expected to vote with their wallets

AFP , CARDIFF, WALES

Wales's World Cup warm-up match against Argentina today is likely to be played out in front of a modest crowd at the Millennium Stadium as thousands of home fans vote with their wallets after a record defeat against England two weeks ago.

According to a report in yesterday's Western Mail, Wales's national daily newspaper, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has so far sold barely 30,000 tickets for a game in a ground which holds some 74,000.

Big crowds are usually the order of the day for Wales games at the Millennium Stadium and Argentina, fifth in the world rankings, are a far more attractive prospect now than when they beat Wales in front of a crowd of 39,000 at the Millennium Stadium in 2001.

disappointment

But current ticket sales appear to reflect a mood of disappointment with a Wales side thrashed 62-5 at Twickenham.

That left under-pressure Wales coach Gareth Jenkins with a record of just three wins from 14 games in charge.

Only one of those, over England, has come against a major rugby union nation.

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis told the Western Mail that the eventual crowd figure for the match would represent a "fantastic attendance" for a fixture between "two remarkable teams."

Lewis, added the expected crowd figure compared favorably with what he said was an attendance of only 20,500 for Wales's World Cup warm-up match against Scotland four years ago.

"The position here is it is looking great for Saturday with 30,000 tickets already sold," he said.

"I think we are going to get a big walk-up crowd while we have got a great ticket offer for youngsters to come and see one heck of a game. Thirty thousand, that is a remarkable achievement in that we sold 20,000 tickets four years ago," he said.

reward

World Cup games are being staged in Wales for the first time in eight years as the WRU's reward for supporting main hosts France in their successful bid against England to put on this year's tournament, which starts next month.

Before the 1999 World Cup, with Welsh rugby on a high, around 47,000 watched Wales beat Canada while 63,000 saw them beat France during a 10-match winning streak and at a time when the Millennium Stadium's capacity was restricted.

Wales play France a week tomorrow at the Millennium Stadium with Lewis saying that 40,000 tickets have already been sold for that match.

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