The Millennium Stadium will be a showpiece venue at the Rugby World Cup once again as the match schedule sees it prepare to host key matches in the 2007 tournament.
Wales's Rugby World Cup re-match with the double World Champion Wallabies is set for the Millennium Stadium in 2007. French rugby chief Bernard Lapasset confirmed the prime fixture will go ahead in Wales when he headed up a delegation from the host nation for talks with Welsh Rugby Union bosses in Cardiff on Wednesday 7th July to iron out details of the four matches set to be played in Wales in three years time.
The two nations have also agreed to stage a pre-Rugby World Cup warm-up match between the two countries at the Millennium Stadium in the summer of 2007. When Wales was chosen as the Host Nation for the 1999 Rugby World Cup by the IRB they split the games between the Four Home Unions and France. This was done on the understanding that when any of those countries assumed Host Nation status in the future they would give games to Wales. The French Rugby Federation has also given games to Scotland and Ireland, but the Millennium Stadium will be the only country outside of France to stage a quarter-final.
"We looked at the schedule of matches being held here in Cardiff during Rugby World Cup 2007, three pool games and a quarter-final, and it has been agreed, subject to approval by the IRB, that the major match of the pool, Wales v Australia, will be played here at the Millennium Stadium," explained Lapasset, the President of the FFR. "We examined ticket prices, comparing the Six Nations with the Heineken Cup, and discussed what would be an acceptable price level. We found a satisfactory solution to the financial deal that was agreed in 1999 and we also hope to organise a Wales v France game at the Millennium Stadium as a taster to France 2007. We will meet again in September or October with a finalised plan, but I am very happy with the way things are looking."
RWC 1999 brought more than £80m into the Welsh economy and earned each of the five nations who staged matches a near £5m cash windfall under the payment scheme devised by the WRU. In addition to the four games in 2007, Wales can also expect a substantial pay out.
Wales were knocked out by the Wallabies at the quarter-final stage in 1999, going down 24-9 in controversial style as New Zealand referee Colin Hawke awarded two dubious tries in the pouring rain. The two teams are grouped again in Pool B for the 2007 tournament, along with Oceania 2, Americas 2 and Asia 1, and the game against Australia will be one of two pool games Wales will play on home soil. The other two games, and any quarter-final they reach, will be played in France.
"This was our first meeting since the confirmation that we will host three Pool games and a quarter-final in Wales and everything is moving along nicely," said WRU Chairman, David Pickering. "That makes the Millennium Stadium a major venue for RWC 2007, which is fantastic news for Wales.
"We will be the only country other than France to host a quarter-final and we want to make sure Wales is the most successful venue in the Rugby World Cup - bringing more pride and financial return to both Wales and Welsh rugby. We have an excellent understanding with the French and together we want to make RWC 2007 even more successful than the 2003 tournament.
"Our planning has started early and we will soon be appointing an executive to manage the Welsh end of the competition. It is always great for Wales to be able to host international fixtures against the top sides in the world and a Rugby World Cup warm-up match against France would certainly help Wales's playing preparations.
"I'm sure the Welsh public would relish a chance to see France at the Millennium Stadium just before the Rugby World Cup kicks off, just as they did in 1999."
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.