By James Lloyd
Cardiff University women’s rugby head coach Richard Jones is relishing the opportunity to lead his team out on the Principality Stadium turf.
The women’s side will make history when they run out on the famous pitch at Welsh Varsity on April 5.
Plans for the prestigious, student sporting event were announced last week with the festival returning to the Welsh capital after a two-year lay-off.
Swansea’s Liberty Stadium played host to the men’s rugby, the main event of the sporting showdown between the two rival universities for the past two years.
But this year the women will have their say at the Home of Welsh Rugby, marking history in British university sport.
Jones, who has been coaching the women’s side for eight years, is looking forward to the game and believes it is a big leap for women’s sport.
He said: “It’s a dream for every athlete or rugby player to play in the national stadium. It’s fantastic for university rugby, especially the women’s game.
“It will be good for future recruitment and us as a team going forward.
“I think it’s a good thing for women’s rugby in general and women’s sport as an overall thing. Over the past seven to eight years since I have coached here at the university, it is getting a bigger profile.
“Playing at the Principality will be huge, and I think women’s rugby in general across the UK is growing.”
Cardiff and Swansea have exchanged close results in the past year with the Red & Blacks winning the 2016 Varsity, 19-18.
The Swans, however, came out on top 14-12 in a BUCS game in October courtesy of a last minute try.
But Jones reckons the momentous occasion will bring out the best from his team.
“Varsity itself brings the pressure,” he explained.
“All students realise that Varsity is the big occasion and the one everyone wants to play in. Playing in front of a big crowd, in front of a big stadium will bring more pressure for the individuals.
“But I think the team can use it to their advantage and have a good day and enjoy the moment.”
A question that naturally comes into debate is the stadium’s retractable roof. Recently, Six Nations chiefs denied Wales’s request to have the roof closed for their matches against England and Ireland.
And it is a question that even Jones has been pondering.
He said: “I have been thinking about the roof situation. It depends on the weather, though. The past few Varsity days have been in the sun so if it’s a nice, sunny day then the roof should be open.
“But when the roof is closed the atmosphere is a lot more intense.”