The Wales rugby team may be on the other side of the world in New Zealand, but news of the excitement their 2011 Rugby World Cup performances have generated at home is filtering through loud and clear.
During the tournament messages have reached the team from a wide variety of different and distinguished well wishers, including singer Katherine Jenkins, the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones and even Prince William.
But Wales and Ospreys hooker Huw Bennett has looked closer to home to get an idea of the atmosphere he and his colleagues are responsible for creating back in Wales.
Bennett’s family, parents Stephen and Kay, his fiancée Claire, and children Ashley (14), Gracie-Mae (3) and Bobby (2) will be part of the 25,000 strong (and counting) crowd turning out at the Millennium Stadium to watch Wales’ historic semi-final clash with France on Saturday morning - live on the big screens - and he says it will feel like they are out there with him come kick-off at 9am UK-time.

“I’ve been told the whole of Wales has gone off the scale in terms of their excitement ahead of the weekend’s game,” said Bennett.
“As players we obviously try to keep a lid on those kinds of emotions, so we can concentrate on the job at hand.
“But I was particularly impressed to hear my dad talk about being approached all week by people he doesn’t know wanting to shake his hand and send their best wishes to me and the team.
“He is a postman in Ebbw Vale and he says his daily rounds have been taking twice as long because of all the people wanting to talk to him about the rugby, sending us good luck and asking him for any insights into the camp.
“That kind of thing really makes you realise that the nation is behind you, not that we didn’t know that already, but it helps the magnitude of it all sink in.
“We have had great welcomes wherever we have been in New Zealand and we know it’s going to get busier and busier before Saturday, but we can walk around our hotel in Sky City in Auckland at the moment fairly calmly.
“But when you ring home there’s no escaping the feeling in Wales and it’s pretty exciting.”
The Bennetts will be part of a possible 45,000 strong crowd at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday morning, all Wales fans who have applied for the free tickets to turn up in Cardiff and support the team.
“The kids are very excited about it, they all love their rugby and although they can’t be out here with me, this is definitely the next best thing,” added Bennett.
World Cup fever has spread like wildfire through Wales with more than 25,000 fans already booked in for the Welsh Rugby Union’s ‘Wake Up For Wales’ screening of the semi-final.
And, due to overwhelming demand for the free tickets the WRU have made contingency plans to increase the capacity and satisfy the growing demand, releasing seating in the middle and upper tier to make a further 20,000 spaces available.
The Millennium Stadium will now open to the public at 7.30am on Saturday.
"The support from the Welsh public has been stunning and due to such huge demand for tickets I’m thrilled to announce that the stadium will be opening its doors at the earlier time of 7.30am on Saturday and that there is now a further 20,000 tickets available for seating in the middle and upper tiers in our East stand,” Millennium Stadium General Manager Gerry Toms.
"The interest in this event is truly indicative of the support out there for Wales this weekend and I must also mention the unreserved support we’ve received from Cardiff Council and their affiliated agencies. I hope that everyone in Wales pulls on their red jersey for what will be a spectacular day of rugby on Saturday and look forward to welcoming the fans to the home of Welsh sport."
For tickets to the seating areas remaining, fans can still claim up to six tickets each when turning up in person at Gate 3 of the Millennium Stadium, while stocks last. The WRU e-ticket offer has now sold out. Fans can access park and ride facilities at County Hall in Cardiff Bay from 7am and parking will be charged at the standard day rate of £3.


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