Passion, programmes and pints: Wales gears up for its grand day
Millennium Stadium, pubs and bars will all be packed today as Principality takes centre stage
As if Wales needed any more expectation heaped on their young shoulders, their First Minister delivered an impassioned call to arms, declaring this is not just a World Cup but a golden chance to improve the country's well-being.
As the anticipation built in the Welsh capital last night, as the pubs and clubs tried manfully to clear their premises before they began to refill again at 7.30am, Carwyn Jones outlined the riches on offer. "First and foremost I am a Wales rugby fan ... but this isn't just about sport," said the First Minister. "It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Wales on an international stage. It's giving us attention around the world that money just couldn't buy."
Money will, however, be able to buy an official match-day programme at the Millennium Stadium. The Welsh Rugby Union has been rightly praised for opening up the stadium for free, as well as putting on pre-match entertainment including the choir-cum-boy band Only Men Aloud.
The take-up has astounded officials, who are hoping the attendance will rival the 67,500 who will cram into Eden Park to watch Wales' first semi-final in 24 years. With the bars opening at 9am, the WRU has made the spectacle enticing – and even more so now the same programme as in Auckland can be purchased for posterity.
The WRU yesterday agreed a deal with the International Rugby Board to break with tradition and print and sell the match-day programme (for £7) 12,000 miles away. "We wanted to make the day as authentic as possible for fans, a lot of who couldn't get down to New Zealand," said Craig Maxwell, the WRU's head of marketing. "So we have decided to bring a key part of the match-day experience to the Millennium Stadium for the day."
Cardiff is not the only city pulling out the stops for the big occasion. In Swansea, a giant screen has been erected in Castle Square, while in the rugby hotbed of Llanelli the regional side are opening up their doors at "Parc Y Scarlets" for the entire day before their evening match against Leicester. If the world's eyes really are on Wales today they will not be disappointed by the passion.
Said the First Minister: "My message to the world is clear. Wales is a small country but can compete with the best. Our rugby team exhibit our chief virtues – thorough preparation, skill and competitiveness. Come and see for yourself. Wales is open for business." And indeed, for an early-morning pint.
Radamel Falcao exclusive: Forward says joining Manchester United is a 'dream come true'
Transfer deadline day: The best memes and tweets, featuring Radamel Falcao, Javier Hernandez and Bart Simpson
Arsenal transfer news: Ray Parlour urges Arsene Wenger to make late move for Edinson Cavani
WWE Raw preview: Will John Cena continue to defy the threat of Brock Lesnar?
Danny Welbeck to Arsenal: Arsene Wenger pictured in Rome as club close in on Manchester United striker for £17m
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain