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Prince William attends Wales's opening Six Nations rugby match against Ireland

4th February 2007

Prince William cheered on Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff today during his first engagement as Vice Royal Patron of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

The new post of Vice Royal Patron will support the work of Her Majesty The Queen, who continues to be Patron.

This is the fourth public role William has taken on, following his appointment as Patron of the homelessness charity Centrepoint, Patron of the conservation charity The Tusk Trust and President of the Football Association.

The Welsh Rugby Union is responsible for all levels of the game throughout Wales, from community clubs at the grass roots all the way through to the national team.

Wearing a dark red official WRU tie with a dark blue suit and pale blue shirt, Prince William was greeted on his arrival at the stadium by dignitaries including Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain, First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, WRU Chairman David Pickering, Honorary Life Vice Patron of the WRU Sir Tasker Watkins and Roger Lewis, WRU Group Chief Executive.

The Prince spoke to them about the current Welsh team, and said: "The new boys have got potential. You do very well."

William took an impromptu walk out on to the pitch with Welsh players Tom Shanklin and Gareth Thomas before lunch and signed a visitors' book in the stadium, positioned directly below a photograph of himself as a child on an earlier visit to Cardiff, in which he was wearing a Welsh scarf with a leek badge pinned to his suit.

Laughing, the Prince pointed at the photograph and said: "Can you tell the difference? I was far better looking then."

During the pre-match lunch, Prince William and guests were served confit of pork and crispy duck terrine, followed by roast leg of Welsh lamb studded with rosemary and caramelised apple cake.

The Prince met Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, shortly before the game started.

He jokingly asked Mr Ahern, in Cardiff for talks with Peter Hain, why he was not wearing an Irish tie, pointing to his own Welsh tie.

Prince William told him how much he enjoyed sport and spoke about Aston Villa, declaring them the "best team in the world".

Following Wales's defeat to Ireland, with 19 points to nine, Prince William met representatives of the game, and chatted to young players, injured players and former Welsh captains.

Melissa Berry, 25, Captain of the Welsh women's rugby team which beat Ireland yesterday, said: "He asked about our match against Ireland, and what women's rugby is like here in Wales.

"He's interested in all forms of rugby, by the sound of it. He was very down to earth."

Bradley Davies, 20, from Llantrisant, who plays for the Wales under-20 team, said: "William told me he had enjoyed the game, but that we were unlucky.

"I could tell how much he likes rugby. It's great that he's the Vice Royal Patron as he's so enthusiastic about it."

Rhys Thomas, 16, from Neath, who plays for the Boys' Clubs of Wales, said: "He was very nice, and asked me how my rugby was going. He said he doesn't get to play rugby as much as he'd like to now."

Former Wales captain JPR Williams said the Prince's role in Welsh rugby would benefit the sport.

He said: "I'm a royalist, and I think the Royal Family are closer to the people than they were 300 or 400 years ago. It's good for Welsh rugby to have him involved.

"I met The Prince of Wales when he first came to Cardiff Arms Park 38 years ago, and it's good to continue that link. If we have princes of Wales, we should have them watching Wales."

The Prince attended a post-match reception before leaving the stadium.