Warren Gatland has called on Wales fans who may be thinking about following their team to the other side of the world for the Rugby World Cup this Autumn to take the plunge – and he’s even arranged free accommodation.
Speaking from a pre-RWC training camp in Poland, the Wales head coach is backing a scheme launched by New Zealand businessman Basil Lennan which sees local Kiwi’s open up their own houses to host travelling Welsh supporters for free.
Gatland’s Wales will play two matches in his home town of Hamilton, against Samoa and Fiji – as well as facing South Africa in Wellington and Namibia in New Plymouth – and he is keen for his side to hear as many Welsh voices as possible during their RWC campaign.
“I don’t think the players always realise just how much support they do have behind them and how much strength of feeling the nation has for its rugby,”said Gatland. “Sometimes you can listen to one or two dissenting voices and hear a pundit knocking you or what you are trying to do and that is the impression you are left with as a player.
“Players take criticism all the time. A lot of it is justified and they are happy to take it all on board, not least from the coaches in constructive form, but I think the power of positive thought has been a little bit of an untapped resource for us recently. If we can illustrate to the players just what it means to Wales when we are able to demand respect on the international stage in our national sport, then I think that can have a really positive effect. Of course deep down they know this already, but it still lifts them when they hear it or see it for themselves.
“New Zealand is a long way away and a lot of these sentiments will settle in the players’ minds during the summer internationals, when, hopefully, we have capacity crowds at the Millennium Stadium for our warm-up against England and final ‘send-off’ match against Argentina. The memories of the atmosphere in those games at our home ground will be fresh in the mind by the time we take on South Africa in that first match of the Rugby World Cup and they will be very important.
“But if there are a few people wondering whether to come out to New Zealand and share in the RWC experience or not, then we would very much encourage them to do so and, if this scheme to provide free accommodation helps them on their way, then we very much applaud it. These players are a passionate bunch and when they know the fans are behind them, it can give them an extra edge.”
Fans wishing to take up the free accommodation offer should email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets to the Wales vs England Rugby World Cup warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday 13 August (kick off 2.30pm) are priced £30 and tickets to the Wales vs Argentina on Saturday 20 August (kick of 2.30pm) are priced at £25 and are on a ‘buy one get one free’ promotion.
Fans can also purchase their tickets for the Millennium Stadium clashes offer online at www.wru.co.uk/tickets or by calling the ticket hotlines 08442 777 888 or 02920 230130 or at local Tesco stores from Thursday.