The Millennium Stadium will host the Heineken Cup Final for the fifth time
The Millennium Stadium takes centre stage once again a week tomorrow when the Heineken Cup Final comes back to Cardiff for the first time since 2011.
Wales' home ground is all set to play host to the 19th Heineken Cup showpiece on Saturday, May 24, 12 years after the maiden European climax at the venue and 18 years after the city first hosted the event.
Excitement and anticipation are already building and now one of the four men to have lifted European club rugby's greatest prize inside the Millennium Stadium says Toulon and Saracens are in for something truly special.
The top teams in France and England will clash in Cardiff, with skippers Jonny Wilkinson and Kelly Brown looking to follow in the footsteps of Martin Johnson, Anthony Foley, Paul O'Connell and Leo Cullen in picking up the trophy in the city centre venue.
And with the roof set to be closed for the 5pm kick off on May 24, Foley is expecting a similarly surreal and spectacular atmosphere to the one he experienced when leading Munster to glory against Biarritz Olympique back in 2006.
"The roof being closed means nothing leaves the stadium - everything stays inside and it's a cauldron," said Foley, who skippered Munster to their first Heineken Cup success having previously played in two losing finals.
"It's one of the best venues in world rugby, and that's not just because Munster and Ireland have had some great days there. We've had some bad days there as well but you still leave with the feeling that it's an unbelievable venue to play in.
"You're not out in the sticks, you're right in the centre of a very happening city and the people love it, they love it when Heineken Cup finals are there.
"The Welsh people love the game. They love good matches and they love the hype and the mystic of finals. When you looked around the streets there were a lot of Welsh people wearing Munster scarves and Munster jerseys so they obviously buy into it. They look forward to those big occasions, they enjoy a drink, they enjoy the craic and they show great hospitality to the travelling supporters."
That sense of support was certainly pretty special when Foley enjoyed his greatest triumph in a Munster shirt eight years ago, with Cardiff engulfed by the travelling Red Army for an entire weekend.
Their presence alone would have been enough to amaze and inspire in equal measure but the fact that the final was played at the Millennium Stadium, smack bang in the centre of a capital city and in front of a general public that really understands what the Heineken Cup is all about, made things even more memorable for Foley and may even have played a part in Munster's triumph.
"Driving in on the bus through the streets of Cardiff we could see there was a massive volume of Munster supporters," added Foley.
"We knew from hearsay and from the media that they were travelling over by any means necessary to get to the game, and we saw that when we arrived at the stadium and we walked out. We saw how much it was covered in red, and I know Biarritz' colours are also red, but you could see distinct Munster flags around the place and Munster jerseys. It was a special occasion. You knew you had to play well and you knew you had to perform otherwise it would pass you by.
"The atmosphere will drive you on. It will lift you. You don't feel tired, you don't feel the fatigue, you feel you could run all day. It definitely adds to you. It makes you stand a bit taller and run a bit harder.
"It gives you that comfort that people are there to support you because they believe in you. That helps you to perform and gives you that little bit of extra confidence you need in that moment of doubt. Everybody has doubt, particularly in the big games, and that level of support squashes that down a small bit and tries to promote the confidence from within to go out and play."
As the countdown continues for RWC2015, Tournament Chief Executive Debbie Jevans visited the Millennium Stadium to discuss preparations for the eight matches and reveal the positive news that 100,000 tickets for games at the home of Welsh rugby have sold in the last seven days.
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