Get the Hankies Out. . . It’s Time To Wave Goodbye

A packed weekend in Welsh rugby will start in London and finish in Cork and Llanelli on Saturday night – with some emotional goodbyes along the way.

Let’s start with those tearjerkers. Anyone who wells up easily should take plenty of hankies to the Principality Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Not only will Leigh Halfpenny be playing his last match for Wales, but in Barbarians colours both Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric are bidding farewell to the stadium where they served with such distinction.

Halfpenny is likely to play his next season in New Zealand, in what is likely to be his final campaign before moving into coaching.

Jones may have a couple more games in him for French club Toulon but the 38-year-old has said that will be it when his short-term contract ends in two weeks’ time.

As for Tipuric, like Jones, he retired from international rugby earlier this year and although he will continue for at least this season with the Ospreys, this is likely to be his last appearance at the home of Welsh rugby.

Halfpenny said: “I’m just grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to wear the jersey over the last 15 years.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to put on the Welsh shirt and I’m really excited for Saturday.

“I’ve got a few friends and family coming along, and I’m looking forward to going out one last time.

“To run out alongside guys like Alun and Justin Tipuric, albeit they’ll be on the opposite side, and share the field with those two greats of the game and Welsh legends again will be pretty special.”

Jones, who has won a world record 170 Test caps, said: “It’s been a long time coming – 18 years in fact. I’ve been chasing an egg for a long time, so to have the last one in the stadium is going to be special.

“It will be with a different team, but they are a great group. They belong to everyone and it’s going to be fun.

“As to what will I miss the most – everything! I enjoy the routine, the players, the camaraderie, and the challenge of winning games. Things change as you get a little bit older and I’ve enjoyed, and taken pride in, seeing guys come through the academy and play for Wales and the Lions.”

Tipuric made a request to the Ospreys – which was granted – to play for the Barbarians, even though it rules him out of the opening game of the weekend for his region.

They have moved a home fixture to Harlequins’ stadium at The Stoop where they host the Sharks in their BKT URC game on Friday night.

“I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to play for the Barbarians against Wales,” said Tipuric.

“It’s a shame the game falls on the same weekend as Ospreys ‘ first game in London against the Sharks, which is important to the club and a game I was really looking forward to.

“After discussing it with Toby (Booth) and the team, I’m incredibly grateful that the Ospreys are supportive of my decision and have allowed me to play for the Barbarians.”

The Ospreys’ game starts at 7.35pm on Friday, before Wales host the Baa Baas in that non-capped fixture at 2.30pm on Saturday.

When that game is over, two other Welsh regions meet in a 5.15pm derby as the Scarlets welcome Cardiff at Parc y Scarlets.

The two sides are without 10 players involved with Wales as the Scarlets bid to recover from two very heavy defeats in South Africa, where they lost 63-21 to the Bulls and then 52-7 to the Stormers.

“We knew it was going to be a tough start to the season in South Africa, but a few of the boys have had their eyes opened,” said head coach Dwayne Peel.

“It’s not about taking positives because they were two heavy losses. It’s about the learning.

“I’ve also learned a lot about this squad and about where players are in their development.”

The Dragons are away to Munster – also at 5.15pm – where scrum-half Rhodri Williams will make his 100th appearance for the region.

The Dragons have not won at Munster for 19 years, but Williams says: “They’re a formidable team and it is a tough place to go, but we want to test ourselves against the best in the league and it’s an exciting place to play.”