It’s Not Nice In Cardiff. . . Let’s Keep It That Way, Says Jonathan Humphreys

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Jonathan Humphreys, the Wales forwards coach looks on during the Summer International match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on August 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

It’s Not Nice In Cardiff. . . Let’s Keep It That Way, Says Jonathan Humphreys

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By Paul Jones

Wales forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys wants the capacity Welsh crowd to turn up the volume at the Principality Stadium for the opening game of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations against Scotland to make the atmosphere as noisy as possible.

The Scots will arrive seeking their first win in Cardiff in 22 years. They have lost on their last 11 visits and Humphreys believes the noise and atmosphere at the home of Welsh rugby has been one of the biggest barriers to Scotland winning.

The former Wales skipper knows exactly what it’s like having a packed home stadium supporting you on home soil, but he also understands how difficult it can be to win at the Principality Stadium.

Twice he returned as forwards coach with the Scots and twice he left without a win after suffering a record 51-3 defeat in 2014 and a 27-23 reverse two years later.

“I think people underestimate the stadium and how noisy and intimidating it is. When you are the other side of that it hits you,” said Humphreys.

“It’s not a nice place to come to, especially if Wales are on the front foot, going well and the crowd are behind them. Being the other side of it, you try and enjoy the atmosphere but it’s a bit difficult because it’s so noisy – that’s a challenge in itself.

“I know lots of people talk about the atmosphere. When the stadium was built, there were a few of us who were asked our opinion from the old stadium.

“What we wanted was the ability still to be enclosed like we were at the old Arms Park was. It’s unusual compared to other stadiums how impressive that can be.”

While Humphreys is confident the sell-out crowd of 74,500 will get behind the young, new look Welsh side, he also has faith in the youngsters who have been drafted into the squad.

There are five uncapped players, a new captain in the 21-year-old Dafydd Jenkins and 11 players with less than 10 caps to their name.

”It has been good having the youngsters come into the squad, they bring loads of energy and they’re lapping it all up,” he added.

“The reason they are in here is because we feel they can play international rugby, and their form with the clubs has shown that.
“They are super-keen, super-hungry and they will have experience of Test rugby during this campaign.

“For the next World Cup cycle, we’re looking to get these boys up to between 25-40 caps. These boys are now playing at regional level, which has been a massive bonus.

“You come through the academies and the U20s and sometimes you don’t need to play 60-70 games. You can get 10-11 games, show you have the athletic ability, play well and you are here.

“We’ve got two weeks to prepare to play a really good team, and then we play another really good team after that. It’s about trying to get the boys to understand what the intensity of Test match rugby is, the physicality of that.

“It is a huge test, so we try to build that into the programme, as well as the detail that goes with it. It is a huge challenge, but these guys are here because athletically they can compete.

“We’ve got some great competition in the second row. There are three or four locks who are 21-22 years of age, as well as Adam beard and Will Rowlands, and I truly believe we are blessed in that department.

“The level of expectation within the group is high. You are still expected to perform, you are still expected to win. Do we see it as a free hit? That doesn’t really register with us.

“We want to get these boys up and running as quick as we can, we want them to experience success as quick as we can. Whenever that comes, the sooner the better, really.”

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