By Tirion Davies
Cardiff can be hectic during match days. Yet, due to Cardiff’s great love of rugby, match days can quickly become one of your favourite parts of the year.
Rugby is the Welsh national sport, and between the impressive 73,931 rugby capacity in the Principality, and the buzz of the capital during a match, it’s no surprise that many rush to Cardiff when Wales plays. Rugby is so beloved in the Welsh capital that during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a giant rugby ball was placed on the side of Cardiff Castle, making it look as though a fly-half goal kicker had wedged the ball into the side of the landmark. Many crowded to see the stunt, and numerous residents noted their disappointment when it was time for the faux ball to be taken down.
This year, there’s no doubt that there will be much buzz surrounding match days in Cardiff. Following the incredible Welsh success during last year’s Six Nations (Wales won both the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown) and following the recent Rugby World Cup, this year’s Six Nations is sure to draw many fans to Cardiff. This year is sure to be busy, but that only means the atmosphere will be astonishing.
When you’re a fresher, it seems intimidating and it can be hard to know during your first year where to go during a match day, and it’s inevitable you’ll make some match-day mistakes.
Gair Rhydd’s here to help, with all the information you need to make the most of the Six Nations as a fan in Cardiff.
Where do I go? Pub v club
This question entirely depends on the person and what kind of atmosphere you’re lookig for.
I’d say for the most part, there’s absolutely no need for you to fork out on a ticket to watch the match live at the Principality. Of course, just about everyone would like to go at some point, but as a student, it’s not necessary to be sat in the stands; it can be expensive and it’s definitely not necessary in order to make the most of match days. You can find the same atmosphere just about anywhere in Cardiff. If you’ve got the money – go for it. But don’t worry that you’re missing out if you’re watching it on telly, rather than being there in person; you definitely won’t be.
When it comes to choosing whether to watch the match at the pub or in a club, it’s entirely dependent on the person.
Generally speaking, those who travel from the Valleys and other parts of Wales, who tend to be of the older generation, go to pubs to watch the rugby. Watching the rugby in a pub on a match day is great. You can sit the entire time, drink your pint and have a laugh. The atmosphere in a pub is brilliant. Undoubtedly, you’ll end up drunk, singing Max Boyce’s classics with a group from Aberdare who are well into their 50s.
It’s uncommon to find people in South Wales who aren’t friendly – especially on match days. In the pub, you’ll speak to countless people – think about nights out in Wetherspoons when you’re talking to a Welsh stranger at the bar, but heightened (and with more Welsh strangers).
Regardless of whether you’re in a pub or a club, you’re bound to end up with a new Welsh best mate; the rugby brings people together.
But in a pub, it feels casual and you can get drunk, but you are more likely to be surrounded by the older generation. Not a problem – it can be lots of fun – but if you’re looking to sing your heart out to Delilah and Hymns and Arias with people your age, maybe try a club.
Be sure to check the social media and websites of clubs in Cardiff over the coming weeks to see who’s hosting Six Nations matches on big screens. Some clubs which commonly show the matches are places like Clwb Ifor Bach, Soda, Retros and Walkabout.
Clubs can be a really fun way of enjoying match days – the atmosphere can be loud, but everyone’s excited. Clubs also make sure there’s enough music to keep people in high spirits – after Welsh victories, clubs tend to play fan favourite songs to keep spirits high.
Clubs are usually filled with students, who’d rather go to a club than a pub on match day, but it doesn’t mean clubs are exclusive to students (Joe Calzaghe was reportedly spotted in a Cardiff club during Wales v France last year).
Clubs are also dark, so if your team loses no one needs to see you cry.
You do need to stay standing up if you want to be able to see the screens in a club, but there’s nothing like the sheer joy you feel in a club when your team is victorious.
Regardless of victory or commiserations, club atmospheres can usually raise your mood (the alcohol helps).
Again, it’s entirely dependent on the person when it comes to choosing a pub or a club to watch the match, but in Cardiff it hardly matters – you have fun either way.
If you’re planning on supporting your home team while you’re here in Cardiff but you’re worried nowhere will show the match, look around. There are plenty of pubs around Cardiff who will be showing games other than just the ones Wales are playing.
When do I get there?
Here’s the problem with match days: if you want to go to a club or a pub to watch the match, you need to get there early.
It seems ridiculous to be in a queue at 10am if the match kicks off at 1, but clubs and pubs are aware that many people will go to watch the match and only have a certain capacity.
It’s always better to get to wherever you’re watching the game slightly earlier than you’d think, as you won’t want to be squeezing yourself through extreme crowds just to find the best place to stand.
Additionally, always make sure to get to your destination early because if you don’t get in, it’s undoubtedly going to be harder to get in to somewhere else. Say Walkabout has reached capacity at 12:30 and you’re still in the queue – it’s unlikely you’ll find time to get into another club before the match starts.
Finding somewhere to watch the match during Six Nations is a little like the airport rule for over-anxious passengers – leave earlier than you think you should in case something goes wrong.
Any tips and tricks?
Pre-drinking is usually a good idea if your aim on match days is to get drunk. But remember – don’t drink too much or it’s likely you won’t be allowed into the venue.
Drinks on match days are more expensive, as pubs and clubs know they’re bound to get a crowd. Remember to stay responsible with your drinking habits but know that a little alcohol before you arrive to the venue of your choice may save you some money on drinks (but make sure not to go overboard).
Six Nations match days are busy. If anyone saw the streets during the Wales v England game last year, you’ll know how busy things can get. Stick with people you know on a match day – there’s enough people around that crowds can become intimidating quickly. Stick with friends and make sure to be careful.
Be friendly. Welsh people are nosy, (trust me) and are always up to make some friends. One of the best parts about match days is the people you’ll meet and the photos you’ll find later in your camera roll you forgot you took.
Everyone’s out for a good time on rugby match days. Welsh people get very emotional and friendly – especially after a Welsh victory (emotions are also very high if commiserations are in order).
Whether you’ve decided to support Wales during the Six Nations or you’re sticking to supporting your home nation, remember that mock-rivalry is always a bit of fun. As a Cardiff student, you’re bound to have a great time during the Six Nations. Embrace your city. You may get a bit of stick for wearing your jersey from home (especially from England) but just know it’s all in good fun, and it’s rare anyone means anything serious by it.
Biggest tip we have? Have fun! Match days are meant to be enjoyed.