First Minster, Rhodri Morgan will officially open Wales' newest rugby stadium, Parc y Scarlets at a high profile ceremony marked by a Scarlets v Barbarians match this Saturday (31st January 2009).
The world famous touring team will be arriving in Llanelli to challenge the Scarlets in their new home after a gap of more than 35 years. The first two encounters were in 1965 and 1972 and this marks the unique treble of matches between the two sides.
The new 15,000 capacity stadium in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire is a joint venture between partners, Carmarthenshire County Council and the Scarlets and is being officially unveiled to a capacity crowd following the successful completion of its licensing and safety events held over the past 10 weeks.
The Scarlets will celebrate and toast their new home with a packed crowd, with tickets for the landmark game selling fast. Around 12,000 seats have been sold to date - hitting a record five-figure crowd for stadium at its official opening game.
The rugby region left its former home, the world-famous Stradey Park at the end of October 2008. A new era now starts for the Scarlets in a 21st century environment that has been specifically designed for the rugby region and as a major community sports facility.
A new Carwyn James Memorial Trophy will be launched at the official opening and presented to the winning team in honour of the late, great Llanelli player, coach and club president, Carwyn James - marking the 25th anniversary of his death (January 1983). A direct link to its traditions, Llanelli used to play a Carwyn James Memorial match annually against high profile non- fixture sides each year. As a mark of respect, this is now resurrected in the new guise of a 'trophy' (a sosban) to be held in the Parc y Scarlets Ken Jones museum and presented to winning teams of special non-fixture rugby matches.
Chief Executive of the Scarlets, Stuart Gallacher said: "This is a very special occasion for us as we celebrate the official opening of what is beyond doubt one of the finest rugby facilities in Europe. Parc y Scarlets is a source of great pride to the rugby team, those who work here and all our partners and sponsors.
"This major new sports facility and highly professional environment will have a very positive impact on our team and the operation as a region. It will be a centre of development for young rugby talent as well as inspiring the wider community to get involved in sport.
"We are very pleased to welcome the First Minister, the Barbarians committee and representatives from the WRU to our new stadium as well as other special guests to celebrate our great traditions as a rugby region and showcase our very positive ambitions for the future."
Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark James said: "We are delighted to welcome the First Minister to Parc y Scarlets at such a wonderful occasion in a first class stadium, at an opportunity to showcase the talent of West Wales on the world stage.
"It has always been my view that Carmarthenshire should boast the best sporting facilities for its people to help promote the health and wellbeing of people in the county though participation whilst also enjoying vastly varied spectator opportunities and Parc y Scarlets fulfills that aim.
"The community sporting facilities are excellent. There are not many towns the size of Llanelli which can boast the high quality training barn and athletics track we have created here. They will be well used and appreciated by many sporting clubs and organisations in Carmarthenshire."
First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan said: "The town of Llanelli has a very long and proud rugby history and the old Stradey Park was the location for many titanic struggles and famous victories. Although nothing is ever guaranteed on the field of play, I look forward to another famous victory today against the Barbarians to kick start a brand new chapter in that history at Parc y Scarlets. It is a very special privilege for me to be part of this very special occasion."
The official opening will be a fun-packed family and community event with a full pre-match entertainment programme at Parc y Scarlets prior to the game which kicks off at 2.30pm. The indoor training centre will be open for skills sessions and family activities from midday. The opening event will include a pitch parade honouring Llanelli's former player life members and life members which include greats such as Phil Bennett, Ieuan Evans, Gareth Jenkins, Derek Quinnell, Delme Thomas, Neil Boobyer and Roy Bergiers.
The pitch will also welcome a parade of representatives of the region's 73 affiliated clubs. Music will be provided by male voice quartet FORZA pre-match followed by Dafydd Iwan, who will perform Yma O Hyd (Still Here) from the players tunnel leading out the teams onto the pitch.
The Scarlets and Barbarians teams will officially introduced to the First Minister pre-match. Rhodri Morgan will then present the Carwyn James Memorial Trophy to the winning team. There will be a team photo post match followed by a spectacular closing fireworks display.
Twelve young people have been selected to follow a one year WRU Coach Core apprenticeship programme. Coach Core was set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as part of the Olympics legacy in 2012 and the Duke of Cambridge was on hand to meet the apprentices on their first day in the job. The programme has been funded by the Hunter Foundation.
The WRU has launched a campaign to create a long term legacy for Welsh club rugby by highlighting the advantages of volunteering. Rhian Edwards, a volunteer at Seven Sisters, has enjoyed many benefits of her volunteering at a grassroots rugby club including being part of the Rugby World Cup volunteer workforce after being nominated by the WRU - and the WRU is asking for more people to develop their 'Welsh rugby roots'.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton say their first prioirty on Sunday in the opening game of the World Cup is to win against Uruguay and not get overly concerned with points difference.
With only days to go until the biggest rugby competition in the world begins, rugby fans visiting Cardiff this autumn will be able to enjoy a special display at National Museum Cardiff as part of the celebrations surrounding the Rugby World Cup.