Wales will open their 2018 Under Armour Series at Principality Stadium this November against Scotland – the first northern hemisphere tier one visitors to feature in the Tests since a four-match autumn series was first contested 17 years ago.
Wales have regularly faced the top southern hemisphere sides in the autumn Test window with Australia (12) just tipping New Zealand (10) for the most visits to Cardiff in that time – South Africa have appeared eight times and Argentina five, to date.
Of the tier two nations Fiji have been the most prolific visitors, matching the Pumas’ five, Romania and Canada have made three appearances, Samoa, Tonga and Japan two, with the Pacific Islands and Georgia (last year) completing the set with a visit each.
But when the Scots kick-off the 2018 campaign on Saturday 3rd November, it will be another first for Welsh rugby and a chance for an autumn audience to sample a fixture which carries 134 years of history with it.
This game will also be the first occasion when a newly created ‘Doddie Weir Cup’ will be played for – donated by the Welsh Rugby Union, the trophy will continue to be at stake when the two sides meet in future similar circumstances.
In June 2017 former Scotland international and British & Irish Lion Doddie Weir revealed he was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and, from the outset, has been driven to help fellow sufferers and seek ways to further research into the, as yet, incurable disease.
Doddie and his Trustees launched the registered charity ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’ and a series of Welsh rugby initiatives over the course of the weekend will raise money for the foundation and bring Scottish and Welsh rugby communities together.
“Scotland will be an entirely different prospect outside of the Six Nations Championship and this is a rare chance for a much broader base of supporters to experience a match of this magnitude,” said Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips.
“The game carries with it years of tradition and rivalry which should appeal to rugby supporters across both countries and we will be encouraging a range of fixtures across the community game to reflect the history of our two great rugby nations.
“We will also provide a new ‘Doddie Weir Cup’, with related contributions made to the ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’, which will be played for whenever the two sides meet in Cardiff.
“Scotland’s visit is the result of some innovative thinking from the national squads, rugby management and marketing teams of both nations and is set to light up another scintillating campaign.”
The Scots haven’t won in Cardiff since the 2002 Six Nations (22-27), although Wales host Scotland at Principality Stadium in the opening match of the 2018 NatWest Six Nations, on 3rd February.
The only other time the two sides have met outside of the Six or Five Nations Championship, in the 135 history of the fixture, was a summer friendly game in Cardiff in August 2003, which Wales won 23-9.
Scottish Rugby CEO, Mark Dodson said:
“We have a great relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union at all levels and this exciting addition to the Scotland team’s schedule, as we prepare for Rugby World Cup 2019, demonstrates that. The historic, healthy rivalry between our two national teams will come to the fore very soon as we both strive for a win to kick start this year’s NatWest 6 Nations on February 3rd. in Cardiff.
“The new fixture in November will give Gregor Townsend a chance to put the team through their paces ahead of our 2018 Autumn Test series. The introduction of the ‘Doddie Weir Cup’ reflects the warmth with which he is held across the rugby community and the international desire to support the Doddie Weir’5 Discretionary Trust.”
The first time Wales took on four international teams in the autumn period was 2001 when three November clashes against Argentina, Tonga and Australia were preceded by Romania’s visit to the national stadium in mid-September.
The series was first seen in its current form, played out over back-to-back weekends primarily in November, in 2004 (Romania also provided the opposition to open a four game series in 2002, although this match was played at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham North Wales).
“We need four international matches in our autumn calendar in order to provide vital funds for the future sustainability of the game in Wales,” added Phillips, who is keen to point out that all WRU profits, from international fixtures or elsewhere, are re-invested into the game in Wales.
“The 2017 Under Armour Series was a resounding success for Welsh rugby with around a quarter-of-a-million supporters turning out to cheer Wales on at Principality Stadium.
“We will continue to look for innovative ways of maximising the appeal of these matches for Welsh and visiting supporters alike and believe that our 124th meeting with Scotland could be the first of an exciting new brand of fixtures for the autumn campaigns.”