Cardiff to go under cover for Barbarians

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The Independent Online

The first major rugby match to be played under a closed roof will take place at the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff, when Wales meet the French Barbarians on 27 May.

The Wales coach, Graham Henry, has already named a full-strength squad in preparation for the fixture. "This will be a fantastic occasion," he said. "No one has ever played a rugby game of this stature in an indoor arena before - it will be a truly historic day for the sport and for Wales.

"The noise generated will be kept within the stadium and further enhance what has already been established as a truly electric and intimidating sporting amphitheatre. The game will also set the benchmark to those aspiring players going on Wales' development tour to Canada."

A spokesman for the French Barbarians, Marcel Martin, confirmed that the visitors will field a strong team, with Emile Ntamack, Christophe Dominici and Thierry Lacroix all likely to be included. "We will be bringing the strongest available French team and are proud to be part of such a landmark occasion," Martin said.

Bristol's tough-tackling prop Pablo Lemoine is leaving at the end of the season to play in France. The 25-year-old from Uruguay has been a key figure at the Memorial Stadium this season but is being tempted across the Channel by lucrative offers.

Lemoine believes he will get a better deal in France, which has attracted a host of players including the Scottish internationals Gregor Townsend and Tom Smith. "I don't want to go - I love this club and maybe in the future I can come back," said Lemoine, who has attracted interest from Castres.

The Bristol director of rugby, Bob Dwyer, said: "Pablo hasn't signed a new contract but we have been talking to him. We would prefer him to stay but it's his decision."

Dwyer has tried to sign Julian White but Saracens insist that their England A tight-head is staying at Vicarage Road for the next year. However, another of Saracens' rising stars, the England Under-21 international Rob Thirlby, could be on his way to Bath when his contract runs out this summer.

Thirlby is being lined up to form a potent back three along with the Premiership's leading try scorer Iain Balshaw and the England full-back Matt Perry. "I am talking to Bath and Saracens at the moment," the Cornishman confirmed. "I will decide at the end of the season."

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