By Paul Jones
It really will be Judgement Day at the Principality Stadium next Saturday as Cardiff and the Ospreys go head to head, with the Welsh Shield and Heineken Champions Cup qualification on the line.
All four of the Welsh regions lost in the penultimate round of the United Rugby Championship over the weekend, leaving three of the bottom four places occupied by Welsh sides and four of the bottom six.
If there was relegation at stake – as there is in the English Premiership – then all of them would be at risk.
As it is, the requirement for at least one Welsh team to gain entry to the Heineken Champions Cup, means the shoot-out for 11th/12th or 13th place between the Ospreys and Cardiff is also a battle for entry into Europe’s top tournament next season.
Between them, Cardiff and the Ospreys have won just 13 league matches out of 34.
Dai Young’s Cardiff have a four point lead over Toby Booth’s men and can’t be overtaken in terms of wins, so the Ospreys will have to record a bonus point victory while denying their opponents a losing bonus to take the Shield and all that goes with it.
It will be the second game of the day at the iconic ground with the Dragons locking horns with the Scarlets to kick things off.
The winner of the Welsh Shield will qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup, ahead of the eighth-placed URC side.
But if either the Scarlets or Benetton win the Challenge Cup, they will also qualify for Europe’s elite event in place of the team that finishes seventh in the URC.
Cardiff director of rugby Young – whose team crashed to a 38-19 defeat at Connacht at the weekend – said of the Ospreys clash, “It’s a Cup final, isn’t it?
“Both teams want to play at the top table next season and both teams want to obviously finish the season as the best place Welsh team, so it’s all to play for.”
Both sides will be coming off the back of heavy defeats as the Ospreys also went down 45-21 at Edinburgh.
Head coach Toby Booth said: “Our work will be cut out but we have been there and done it before. It’s going to be a tough challenge but Welsh derbies are one-offs.
“We will need to first emotionally recover from what we have just been through against Edinburgh. That was uncharacteristic to what we have produced previously and I was not expecting that at all.
“The two games you have to be so aware of emotionally when you are playing other sides is their first and last home games because everybody is excited, keen and emotional.
“We knew how important the opening minutes were going to be against Edinburgh and it could not have gone any worse for us which set the tone.
“I don’t think we will worried about that from an emotional point of view against Cardiff.
“What is good about where we have previously been in Welsh derbies is we have managed to do well in the outcome and the control side.
“It is easier said than done, though, especially against a side [Cardiff] who has exactly the same to play for as you have.”