Judgement Day!

The Welsh regions will return to the Principality Stadium to compete for local bragging rights at Judgment Day on Saturday 22nd April.

The day will see Scarlets take on Dragons RFC before Cardiff Rugby battle it out against the Ospreys in the final weekend of BKT United Rugby Championship action.

While the bragging rights of the Welsh derbies will certainly be up for grabs, the regions are also competing for the Welsh Shield, the ultimate show of the best side in Wales.

Not only are these games and victories for the fans, the team who wins the Welsh Shield will earn a Heineken Champions Cup qualification spot.

Last year Ospreys won the shield and have gone on to make a remarkable run in Europe’s premier cup competition, beating French champions Montpellier and English Champions Leicester to reach out the knock-out stages.

But the Swansea based region will have to have to overcome a strong Cardiff side, who currently find themselves with a five-point cushion above the Ospreys.

Morgan Morris said:

“We didn’t get off to the best starts to the season, but we knew we were never too far away. Since Christmas we have been on a great run, the confidence is up, and we feel like we can compete against anyone

“We have beaten some good teams in Swansea and away from home, so the aim now is just to see how far we can go with it, hopefully we can be in and around the play offs and compete for the Welsh Shield.

“When Toby (Booth) came in he said he wanted to promote the young local players. I was probably one of the ones that came through at the time and now I’ve played quite a lot of games since.

“I am enjoying my rugby, playing regular minutes is massive for me and my development and I’m loving every minute of wearing that black Ospreys jersey.

“I know the last few years we have missed out on having Judgement Day as part of the season. It’s been a shame to not have it, because it’s a huge occasion for players and fans alike.

“I’ve just missed out on playing here before, so to have it back this year is amazing. It’s going to be a huge experience for me. I can’t wait to soak in the atmosphere and the occasion.

Cardiff have shown some impressive form this season, but a slump around the Christmas period saw the Ospreys and the Scarlets take full advantage, sealing tight wins against the side from the capital, making for an interesting end to the season.

Huw Evans Photography

Lloyd Williams said:

“I think there is definitely room for improvement, I think we missed a big opportunity around the Christmas period. If we could have capitalised during those Welsh derbies we could have been in a great position.

“In saying that we have still got games to play and despite a few narrow defeats we find ourselves in a good position. Hopefully that will allow us to attack the rest of the season. I really feel like we have the strength and the quality in the squad to compete with any team.”

Judgment Day will be massive occasion for the players as well as the fans. The Welsh derbies are always the games that attract the most attention and the spectacle will be played out in one of the best sports stadiums in the world, in front of thousands of fans.

It’s all you could dream for someone involved in Welsh rugby. The previous editions have possibly lacked some tension surrounding the outcome of the matches.

There hasn’t been a lot riding on the games, in terms of league standings. But hopefully this year the regions will have plenty to play for.

“It’s pretty surreal, it’s something you’ve always gone to and watched from the stands. But then to be on the actual pitch is an unbelievable feeling. You know not too many people will have that opportunity,” Lloyd Williams added.

“It’s pretty strange for the first couple of times you go out there, it’s not something you get used to pretty quickly.”

In the other game of the day the Scarlets face the Dragons, as the two regions continue their rivalry at Judgement Day.

The Scarlets beat Dai Flanagan’s side the last time the two teams met on the 1st of January, 33-17.

It has been a difficult campaign for the Dragons, who showed some promise during Flanagan’s early days in charge, but have struggled to pick up results of late, despite playing some excellent rugby.

Scarlets fly half Dan Jones is excited about the prospect of playing at the Principality Stadium and hopes the Scarlets can utilise their big match experience to get past a tough Dragons side.

Jones said: “I’ve enjoyed some pretty good years at the Scarlets, especially early on.

“Winning the under 20’s Six nations with Wales was very special and then getting into that team who had won the Pro 12 title and going on those incredible European adventures was the stuff of dreams.

“To play in those big games for the Scarlets was an incredible experience and it is something we are hungry to get more of.

“We’ve had some big days and hopefully we can get that feeling back, we are all trying our best to give those kinds of experiences back to our supporters and for ourselves as well.

The 27-year-old will also be hoping for a starting spot, as he eyes up a potential reunion with Steff Hughes and Angus O’Brien on April 22nd.

“The last couple of seasons the dragons have probably had our number, even at Judgement Day,” Jones added.

“They (Dragons) are playing some brilliant rugby this year, so credit to them and Dai (Flanagan). Hopefully I will get to line up against Hughes and Angus (O’Brien), there’s that connection from their scarlets days, so it will be nice to get one over on them.

“Steff is one of my best mates, since we started out at the Scarlets. He still keeps in touch, but I think the group chat will be quiet going into that week, we will have to see who gets the win, it will be pretty interesting.

“We’ll have a good laugh on the field and off it to be honest.”

Dwayne Peel will be delighted with how his side have fought back, following a wretched start to the season. The Scarlets had secured just one win from their first seven games, before their excellent run began in the European Challenge Cup in December.

The Scarlets have won their last six games in all competitions after their 34-14 defeat against bitter rivals Ospreys.

Jones said:

“Dwayne has always been here and knows all about the old cliché ‘the Scarlets way’ of rugby, it’s a huge part of the fabric of the club. He’s never taken that away from us, he gives us the confidence to express ourselves out on the pitch,”

“I think we are reaping the rewards of our hard work, especially in the early part of the season. Things weren’t going our way but slowly we have built on things to the position where we find ourselves today.

“Winning can become a habit and so can losing, but culture has remained the same and the changing room is a really good place to be at the moment”.