Six Nations: Wales keep Andy Robinson in a sweat over roof request

SCOTLAND coach Andy Robinson has changed tack and requested that the Millennium Stadium roof be closed for Sunday’s RBS Six Nations Championship match, but Wales will keep him guessing.

His captain, Ross Ford, revealed that Scotland have asked for the roof to be closed and that, while it tended to intensify the incredible atmosphere in the stadium, generated by 80,000 supporters, the dry conditions would give Scotland a better chance of victory.

The hooker said: “We are still waiting on a decision, but we’re going down there looking to play and put them under pressure.

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“You’ll have seen last week the way we want to play and dry conditions are far better for that. As a squad we know what we’re trying to achieve when we’re out there and a dry ball makes that a bit easier, compared to playing in the wind and rain.”

When the Scots faced Wales in Cardiff for the first time under Robinson, two years ago, the Scotland coach demanded the roof be left open, which riled his opposite number, Warren Gatland. When Wales installed the new stadium with its retractable roof the IRB stipulated that in instances where the two teams did not agree, it must remain open.

Ford insisted that the 2010 request was due to the forecast being for good weather, but the about-turn points to some devilment in Robinson’s move then.

Robinson said at the time: “The rules state that, if we want to have the roof open, then we can have that. I think it’s an advantage to Wales playing with the roof closed because they’re used to doing it in front of their home support. We’re not used to playing under those conditions.

“All the other games are played without a roof. This is the only place where you can have a roof. We are abiding by the rules, we’ve made the request, so let’s deal with it.”

Gatland believed that Robinson was looking for help to pressure Wales from the heavens, stating: “To me, if it’s dry on the weekend and it’s sunny and Scotland want the roof open, I understand but, if it is raining, I cannot understand why you would have a roof and not close it.

“I think we’ve got a responsibility to the game, public, media and sponsors that if it’s raining and you’ve got a roof to be closed, let’s close it. We need some sanity, so at least we can see some positive rugby. Why play in the rain and wet if you don’t have to?”

Gatland was not available for comment yesterday but a source close to the management told The Scotsman: “It is the same thinking this time. We don’t see it as an issue and will make a call probably after the captain’s run.

“As is always the case, if the forecast is for a good, dry, sunny day then we’d leave the roof open but, if there is any doubt and a prospect of poor conditions, we’d want to use the roof to help the game and the supporters’ experience.”

Considering the recent spat between the WRU and SRU over the joint claims on centre Steven Shingler – the IRB are currently reviewing the controversial decision that he is already tied to Wales – it would not be surprising if the Welsh were to leave the roof decision until the last minute.

Robinson was not available for comment yesterday either. His thinking may have been changed by the recent World Cup, where he felt that Scotland were disadvantaged by playing Georgia in poor conditions in Invercargill while England enjoyed three pool matches in the new covered stadium in Dunedin.

Now it is Gatland’s call. Scotland head south needing a victory to pull themselves back into the championship, while Wales have confidence from opening with victory over Ireland in Dublin, and both sides play a style of fast rugby that is likely to lead to a closed roof if there is the merest hint of rain.

Wales are sweating on the fitness of skipper Sam Warburton after his deputy, Jason Tipuric, rolled an ankle at the end of the Dublin match. With veteran Martyn Williams only returning to club action this week after a broken arm, Wales are short on the openside flankers which their quick game relies on.

The inspirational Warburton has taken little part in training this week after suffering a dead leg and, while the Welsh camp insisted yesterday he was fit to play, they are hoping he will be stronger tomorrow to lessen the risk of starting him. Ford, meanwhile, is confident that Scotland can win if they match the positives from the Calcutta Cup, lost 13-6, and add a finishing touch in Cardiff.

“We let ourselves down last week, but we go down with confidence and belief in the way that we’re trying to play. Wales had a good away win last week so will be full of confidence, but we have to concentrate on what we do when we get down there.

“We’ve had a look at the video and there was a lot of good in the game [with England].

“We’ve ironed out some areas with our shape which we feel will help us going forward and give us a real edge.”