Welsh Rugby Union reveal the size of the financial disaster they just dodged after soul-searching and private discussions

By Simon Thomas

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Steve Phillips has opened up on the soul searching he went through over the idea of moving Wales’ Six Nations matches to England.

He has revealed Twickenham was the leading option as a venue for the Scotland game on February 12 if the Union had decided to go over the Severn Bridge.

But he has admitted that, on balance, they probably wouldn’t have gone down that route because of their relationship with the Welsh Government and would have played the game behind closed doors in Cardiff.

As it has turned out, they will be able to stage the Scotland match in front of a capacity 74,000 crowd at the Principality Stadium with the government fan-ban being lifted. You can read more about when restrictions ease here.

So their focus now switches to trying to sell the tickets that have yet to be snapped up amid all the uncertainty, between 5,000 and 10,000 in total.

Reflecting on the past month, Phillips has been giving the inside story on just how realistic moving the Scotland game to England was.

“It would be remiss in my job not to look at those things,” he said.

“When the government announcements were made just before Christmas, we spoke to venues in London.

“We ended up probably focused more towards Twickenham, the kind of rugby family looking after itself.

“I had a couple of high-level conversations with the RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, who I am very tight with.

“On the basis they [England] were playing that weekend, if we had ever got there that option would have been available to us.”

Asked whether he would have felt able to arrange a 70,000-plus crowd, full of Welsh fans, in England when such gatherings were prohibited in Wales, Phillips replied: “It is something I wrestled with for a while.

“It is balancing this, isn’t it? That is my job.

“It is balancing off the fiscal concerns and, if we had not had the fiscal certainty, what it would have meant to everybody.

“I am pleased I was not put in that position, but if you are asking me would I have ever got there, on balance, given our relationship with Welsh Government, probably not.

“Based on recent conversations we had with government, we were probably, either way, going to be playing in Cardiff.

“If we had ended up without crowds, I would have been optimistic Welsh Government would have been there to help us.

“It was a very thin line before, because if we had left it too late, we would never have been able to re-sell into Twickenham.

“It was against the backdrop of trying to do the right thing in Wales as well.

“We have got to respect we need to align with Welsh Government.

“Their primary driver here is to protect the nation and we want to play our part.”

Phillips has also revealed just how much it would have cost Welsh rugby to stage the Scotland game behind closed doors in Cardiff.

“It would have been somewhere in the order of £6.5m,” he said.

“That would have been a very difficult situation to find ourselves in.

“It’s massive. We invest everything we make back into the game.

“The pleasing thing now is we don’t have to turn to Welsh Government. We are left to our own devices and rugby can look after itself.

“It’s game on and it’s definitely a sense of relief.

“It will be a massive, massive boost. We very much welcome this news.”

It will now be all hands to the pump in a bid to sell out the stadium for the Scotland game.

“We have probably got between five and ten thousand left at the WRU,” he said.

“I don’t really know how many are still with the clubs.

“We are very aware and need to be responsible about not leaving the clubs stranded because in fairness to them they took the tickets in good faith when there wasn’t uncertainty.

“They bought the tickets against the backdrop of a very vibrant autumn where we had something like 275,000 people in.

“It’s working with them and how do we best collectively deal with this.

“We have got a month to turn this around for Scotland.

“It is a case of chucking resource at this.

“We are now a month away. It will be a scramble.

“I would just say to fans that tickets are available, the opportunity is there with restrictions lifted and we look forward to seeing you.”

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