14th October 2010, 12:24
Wales hoping for electric atmosphere in Neath
Wales Rugby League officials are hoping for one the highest crowds...
Wales Rugby League officials are hoping for one the highest Rugby League crowds at The Gnoll this year on Sunday after revealing that over 1,000 tickets have been sold so far for the crucial Alitalia European Cup match between Wales and Ireland (kick-off 2pm).
The Crusaders twice broke the thousand fans barrier when they played "on the road" Super League matches there this season while South Wales Scorpions' record crowd in Co-operative Championship 1 this season was 890, a figure amongst the top 20 attendances in that league in 2010. Wales are hoping that Sunday's game will more than rival the electric atmosphere that those games created.
Wales had an excellent start to the tournament last Sunday, beating Scotland 60-22 in Glasgow, and coach Iestyn Harris can't wait to experience the atmosphere saying that his players are fully prepared for the crunch encounter.
"We had some issues following the Scotland win but we addressed them in the early part of the week," he said. "In the back-end of the week, we've been looking at Ireland and seeing how we're going to play against them. The guys should now be fully on board with all problems ironed out. We'll be a better side this week for it."
Ireland lost 58-24 in France last Saturday but, despite the high scoreline, Harris knows that they are a side that could cause Wales a lot of problems in Neath.
"Ireland are a good side and performed well under difficult circumstances in France," Harris said. "Some of the stuff that they did with the ball was going to cause some trouble and certainly they're not going to be a pushover. It's a game where we need to be at our best as they're going to cause us some problems. We're going to be cautious but we're optimistic."
And with no major injury worries, Harris is hopeful for a full-strength side.
"Christiaan Roets has got a slight knock so we'll assess him on Friday," Harris admits. "We'll expect to be reasonably healthy on the weekend.
"The pleasing thing about our side is the youthfulness. We've a couple of old heads in Lee Briers and Gareth Thomas but generally it's a young enthusiastic side that's going to grow and mature in a few years. Plus we've got players coming through from the academy all the time and we're pleased that Andrew Gay from South Wales Scorpions and Chris Davies from Crusaders under 18 have joined us this week. It's all going really well for us right now.
"It's going to be a thrilling game this week. If you've not seen Rugby League before, expect some fire, passion, plenty of big hits and big contacts in defence. There's some good rugby going to be played, so if you're thinking of coming down, please do so and you'll enjoy the experience.
"A win under our belts on Sunday will take us nicely into the France game and if we beat them then we're into the Four Nations next year. What that would do for Welsh Rugby League is absolutely huge and we'd be playing against England, Australia and New Zealand, possibly all in Wales, next year. We need two wins from two, every game is a big game."