Biggar: Empty stadiums will harm Wales' Six Nations campaign
SPOTLIGHT: Wales star Dan Biggar fears playing the Six Nations behind closed doors could harm the champions’ prospects of a successful title defence.
Wales’ first home game of the 2022 Championship sees them up against Scotland on February 12 but, under current restrictions issued by the Welsh government, only 50 spectators would be allowed to attend – a far cry from the more than 74 000 capacity of Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
The guidelines are reviewed weekly but First Minister Mark Drakeford has so far refused to give any assurances that spectators will be allowed to watch Six Nations matches amid concerns over the rising number of cases caused by the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
An ‘even’ year means Wales are set to play three of their five Six Nations matches at home, with France and Italy scheduled to visit Cardiff in March.
But they risk losing one of the key benefits of playing at their headquarters – the passionate backing of a large home crowd.
By contrast, no similar restrictions yet apply in England, with Wales set to play in front of an 82 000 full house at Twickenham on February 26.
“It would be great if we could have fans, wouldn’t it?,” Biggar said Friday.
“You see what a difference it makes to an occasion.
“You saw it in November, getting crowds back,” the 32-year-old Northampton and British and Lions playmaker added.
“Everyone coming to games now has to have a passport, they’ll be double or triple-jabbed and it’s an outdoor event, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t be allowed in. As long as it’s safe, that’s the most important thing.”
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) December 30, 2021
Last season, staging the 2021 Six Nations matches against England and Ireland at the Principality Stadium without spectators in attendance cost Welsh rugby an estimated £13.5 million ($18.3 million, 16 million euros) and Biggar said: “It would be a huge, huge step backwards if there are no crowds for clubs and the Six Nations, which is obviously such a show-piece event.
“We played a lot of games with no crowds and if you look at the first handful of them, they almost felt like training games.
“It felt like it did not really matter whether you won or lost because it felt like a training match and the intensity was knocked out of it. You lose any advantage of playing at home.”
Scotland, Ireland and France also have restrictions on spectator numbers, while full houses in Italy are allowed so long as fans have proof of vaccination.
“I’m just relieved to have signed for a club in England,” said Biggar. “I think the rest of the lads in Wales are pretty frustrated with it. That’s normal, frustration, isn’t it?”
“We are probably getting into different things with politics now, but I think everything should be aligned.
“I hope for an event like the Six Nations and for the game up and down the UK moving forward that we get some sort of sensible outcome.”