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Friday start to Six Nations

DUBLIN, April 14 – Next year's Six Nations will start on a Friday for the first time when Wales host England in Cardiff, organisers of Europe's leading international rugby union tournament said Wednesday.The teams will kick-off the 2011 edition at the Millennium Stadium on Friday, February 4.

It is two years since the Six Nations staged its first Friday match, which saw France beat Wales 21-16 in Paris.

This season’s Friday clash also ended in victory for France, who beat Wales 26-20 in Cardiff.

France, the reigning Grand Slam champions, will begin the defence of their title at home to Scotland on Saturday, February 5 – the same day as Italy face Ireland in Rome.

Friday evening fixtures have though been criticised for making it harder for away fans to attend matches and giving them less time to socialise before and after games.

"We’ve had Friday night fixtures for a couple of years now but it’s still new for the tournament," said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

"As far as Friday nights are concerned, the players are used to them from the Magners (Celtic) League so it will make no different to us," he added.

"It may take some time to settle in as far as supporters are concerned but personally I would find it quite exciting as you can make an evening of it at your local rugby club, make it a real occasion then have the weekend to play games or do other things," the New Zealander said.

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"People are still getting used to it and there will be some objections but I think it’s good for the tournament."

The 2011 Championship will also see Ireland return to a redeveloped Lansdowne Road after four seasons at their adopted Dublin home of Croke Park and will conclude with all six sides in action on Saturday, March 19, when France’s match against Wales in Paris will be the last to kick-off.

2011 Six Nations Fixtures (all times GMT):

Feb 04: Wales v England, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (1945)

Feb 05: Italy v Ireland, Stadio Flaminio, Rome (1430)

Feb 05: France v Scotland, Stade de France, Paris (1700)

Feb 12: England v Italy, Twickenham, London (1430)

Feb 12: Scotland v Wales, Murrayfield, Edinburgh (1700)

Feb 13: Ireland v France, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (1500)

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Feb 26: Italy v Wales, Stadio Flaminio, Rome (1430)

Feb 26: England v France, Twickenham, London (1700)

Feb 27: Scotland v Ireland, Murrayfield, Edinburgh (1500)

Mar 12: Italy v France, Stadio Flaminio, Rome (1430)

Mar 12: Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (1700)

Mar 13: England v Scotland, Twickenham, London (1500)

Mar 19: Scotland v Italy, Murrayfield, Edinburgh (1430)

Mar 19: Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (1700)

Mar 19: France v Wales, Stade de France, Paris (1945)

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