Gatland welcomes Friday Six Nations opener

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The Independent Online

Warren Gatland today hailed next year's RBS 6 Nations opener against England as "fantastic" and "exciting" after it was confirmed the tournament will kick-off on a Friday for the first time.

The two sides will go head to head at the Millennium Stadium on February 4 (kick-off 7.45pm) in what will be the third Six Nations match to take place on a Friday night.

Wales will have been involved in all three after losing to France both last year and this.

Those results have failed to put head coach Gatland off the concept of Friday night Test rugby, with the New Zealander telling the Welsh Rugby Union's official website, "It's a fantastic draw, with the first game being England at home on a Friday night, which is exciting.

"We've had Friday night fixtures for a couple of years now but it's still an exciting new innovation for the tournament.

"As far as Friday nights are concerned, the players are used to them from the Magners League, so it will make no difference to us.

"It may take some time to settle in as far as supporters are concerned but, personally, I would find it quite exciting as you can make an evening of it at your local rugby club, make it a real occasion then have the weekend to play games or do other things.

"People are still getting used to it and there will be some objections but I think it's good for the tournament."

Wales' first match in this year's tournament was also against England, Gatland's men going down 30-17 at Twickenham.

"It's definitely a chance for revenge," said Gatland, who is also relishing the prospect of taking part in the final match of the tournament.

That will see Wales travel to Grand Slam champions France on Saturday, March 19 (kick-off 7.45pm GMT).

"In the last two or three RBS 6 Nations tournaments, the last game has been a decider and if that's the case again next season, that will be great," said Gatland, who led Wales to the Grand Slam in 2008.

"If everything is at stake on the Saturday night in Paris, it will be a hugely exciting way to end the tournament."

France will open the defence of their title against Scotland on Saturday, February 5.

England follow their trip to Wales with a hat-trick of home matches against Italy (February 12), France (February 26) and Scotland (March 13), before finishing with a trip to Ireland.

Scotland host Wales and Ireland in rounds two and three and finish with another home game against Italy.

Wales visit Italy in round three and host Ireland two weeks later.

Ireland's first Six Nations game at the Aviva Stadium will take place in round two on Sunday February 13, with France the visitors.

RBS 6 Nations Championship 2011 fixture schedule:

Round One:

Friday, February 4: Wales v England (1945GMT).

Saturday, February 5: Italy v Ireland (1430GMT/1530CET), France v Scotland (1700GMT/1800CET).

Round Two:

Saturday, February 12: England v Italy (1430GMT), Scotland v Wales (1700GMT).

Sunday, February 13: Ireland v France (1500GMT).

Round Three:

Saturday, February 26: Italy v Wales (1430GMT/1530CET), England v France (1700GMT).

Sunday, February 27: Scotland v Ireland (1500GMT).

Round Four:

Saturday, March 12: Italy v France (1430GMT/1530CET), Wales v Ireland (1700GMT).

Sunday March 13: England v Scotland (1500GMT).

Round Five:

Saturday, March 19: Scotland v Italy (1430GMT), Ireland v England (1700GMT), France v Wales (1945GMT/2045CET).