Wales Rugby plan to curb drinking at Principality Stadium | Rugby Union | Sport

2 months ago

Earlier this year, the iconic venue saw reports of abusive behaviour in the stands and fights on the streets outside the ground hit the headlines.

One elderly fan even headbutted a steward in front of the press box during Wales’ defeat to New Zealand. It led South Wales Police to question the behaviour of some supporters.

A heavy drinking culture among fans has been given as one explanation and the Welsh Rugby Union are now looking at ways to ensure any trouble can be minimised.

“We ran surveys in the autumn to ask people what the stadium experience was like for fans,” said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips.

“We asked what they enjoyed and what they didn’t enjoy and one good example was drinking which is clearly a hot topic. What we now understand is that for lots of people coming to a rugby international, they want to have a drink. That might be in a bar or in the ground.

“Equally, there’s a segment saying they like a different experience.

That might be a non-alcoholic zone, something of that nature. They don’t want people standing up and sitting down, or they want to bring their children. We will definitely want to try an alcohol-free zone next autumn.”

Such a move – which would be a first in northern hemisphere rugby – will not be in place in time for the 2018 Six Nations but Phillips said: “Our job is to deliver what the customers want. We can’t stop people drinking in the pubs before they come in but we can say they can’t bring a drink to their seat.”

England head coach Eddie Jones has one less thing to worry about after Manu Tuilagi’s citing was dismissed leaving the centre free to make a bid for a Six Nations spot.

Tuilagi appeared before a hearing in London accused of a dangerous tackle on Munster flanker Chris Cloete in the 49th minute of Leicester’s Champions Cup defeat on Sunday.

His citing brought howls of derision from Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll who claimed the game was going soft but common sense won and Tuilagi, one game into his comeback from a knee injury, can play on Sunday against Saracens.

Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor claimed this was the right outcome and the hearing probably should not have taken place at all.

“It’s a collision sport and we have to make sure we don’t pander to health and safety issues. It’s a highly-physical game played by tough players,” said O’Connor.

“I was very surprised when the citing came though. There was no malicious intent, it wasn’t particularly high. It was a pretty sound tackle from our perspective.

“After his first game back it would have been devastating for him and the group if he was to miss more games, but thankfully sanity prevailed.

“We’re really thankful because Manu has just had a much publicised lay-off from the game and is back fit and had got through a quality 80 minutes.”

Tuilagi has made just one appearance for Jones in the Australian’s two-year reign and that was off the bench in 2016 against Wales.

Jones is desperate to give him a run in the side even if Tuilagi did blot his copybook after a late-night drinking episode at an England training camp, in Teddington, at the start of the season.

Northampton play champions Exeter on Saturday at Franklin’s Gardens and club, and England, captain Dylan Hartley said they were grateful for his input.

He said: “Paul is a good coach and if anything I think just a different voice, someone else’s experience of coaching defence can only help us, so it has definitely been beneficial.

“All the coaches do the rounds, I throw with Steve Borthwick here every Monday, Neal Hatley comes in and talks scrums – Guzzie has done a session with our Wanderers team early on in the season.”

In a light-hearted moment at a desperate time for the club Hartley revealed that he was worried about Northampton’s beer producing capacity.

The town is home to a huge Carlsberg brewery and Hartley said the clubs terrible run of results could affect the local economy also famous for shoe-making.

He added: “Talking to Church’s, production in the factory goes down when we lose. The same at Carlsberg. We need to find a win somewhere to help production in the town. People in another country are getting thirsty.”