The Welsh Rugby Union is hopeful that Principality Stadium can open at full capacity this year after the body confirmed autumn internationals against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.

Wales will play New Zealand at Principality Stadium on October 30 before hosting South Africa the following week. Matches against Fiji and Australia have also been pencilled in for November 14 and November 20, respectively.

Principality Stadium has a capacity of 74,500 but has not welcomed fans for over a year since the onset of the pandemic. The stadium was converted into a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients and as a result was not used to host rugby matches for the remainder of 2020.

Principality Stadium was used during the recent Six Nations, which Wales won, but no fans were in attendance due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. However, with infection rates lowering and the vaccination roll-out continuing, there is growing optimism that the venue can welcome back full crowds later this year.

WRU chief executive Steve Phillips said: “There’s a great appetite for rugby right now. Over two thirds of the population tuned in to watch Wales play each of their Six Nations games in February. Tournaments like the Guinness Six Nations Championship and the Autumn Nations Series galvanise the nation, generate hope and pride and give the people of Wales something to look forward to in difficult times.

“It is our aim and ambition to deliver the Autumn Nations Series 2021 with full crowds. We are working alongside Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to ensure this is done correctly and safely and in order for us to move forward and deliver events of this scale we must plan ahead, be flexible and prepared for change. Getting the Autumn Nations Series on sale early is an essential step in this process.”

Tickets for the matches are now on sale to WRU member clubs, debenture holders and premium members, along with corporate hospitality clients. Should matches take place at reduced capacity or with no fans, ticket holders will be guaranteed a refund.

The autumn series will also mark the launch of Principality Stadium’s new digital ticketing app, which will look to speed up entry into the stadium on match days and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission with traditional paper tickets. The data collected by the new system will enable effective track and trace.

The ticketing app has been created by Tixserve, which has already implemented a similar app for England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) at Twickenham Stadium. The Principality Stadium app was tested during the Six Nations as part of the venue’s accreditation process.

The WRU announced in October that it had posted a loss of £5.3m (€6.1m/$7.4m) for the 2020 financial year and was bracing itself for a tougher next 12 months as the pandemic continues to impact revenue.

Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency