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Never mind the misery.

According to a Cardiff professor next Monday is scientifically proven to be the most depressing day of the year. He bases his theory on the January maths of bad weather plus debt over failed new year resolutions equals unmitigated misery.

But, as my mate Dot points out, he is missing one gloom-lifting factor from his equation: P6NA - Pre-Six Nations Anticipation. 'How can January be depressing?' she says. 'The minute Christmas is over you start looking forward to the Six Nations.'

P6NA accelerated this week as the Welsh squad was unveiled.

Of course, in Wales at this time of year, anticipation is accompanied by expectations of the Dickensian kind.

Before a ball has been kicked, the Welsh faithful always believe this will be the tournament that propels us blinking into the sunlight of a glorious new dawn.

Then somewhere between the goat leaving the pitch and the opposition's first score, they realise it's more likely to be a dawn that makes you peer at the alarm clock, grunt and pull the duvet back over your head.

Yet this time the blind optimism may actually be justified. Yikes.

The desperately close encounters with South Africa and New Zealand have created a momentum that suggests the big scalp is coming.

Mike Ruddock was careful to temper P6NA with some reasons why England aren't ready to be slapheads, from the talents of Charlie Hodgson to the strength of their pack.

Get parity up front, though, and who knows what can happen when Wales' sassy backs attack England's dodgy midfield channel.

And, as the inevitable hysteria builds, Ruddock is determined to channel it in a positive way.

'We don't use the word pressure, we use the word excitement,' he said, explaining the team are excited; they want to build on the exciting style of rugby they displayed in the autumn Tests; and hopefully the fans will share in that excitement.

No problem with the last one. Dot couldn't get more excited.

As the Millennium Stadium stages its Tsunami Relief Concert, other parts of the Welsh rugby community are preparing to raise funds.

While their efforts may not be on the scale of today's music marathon, they're aiming to be every bit as entertaining.

Next Saturday, Stradey Park stages Scarlets In Your Eyes, a musical extravaganza with a star-studded line up of acts, including Robin McBryde, Iestyn Thomas, Dave Hodges, Dafydd Jones, Aisea Havili, Dwayne Peel, Mike Phillips and Andy Powell.

Scott Quinnell will be taking the Matthew Kelly role while the judging panel promises a touch of the X Factor, as Simon Easterby becomes Louie Walsh, Gareth Bowen hoists up his trousers as Simon Cowell and John Davies raises his voice three octaves to play a moustachioed Sharon Osbourne.

As the players line up to declare 'tonight Scott I'm going to be...', up to 500 fans will witness their performance.

Quinnell reckons audience members should prepare themselves to be astonished at the players' musical alter egos. 'Fair play, they have no shame,' he laughs.

Player partners and Stradey Park staff will man the bar and all proceeds from the event will go to the official fund run by the Emergency Disaster Committee.

Scarlets In Your Eyes begins at 8pm following the game against Munster.

Tickets priced pounds 10 are available from the main office at Stradey Park.

And over at the Brewery Field in Bridgend on February 4, Wales v England - The Classics kicks off at 7.30pm.

On the eve of the 'big one', Wales Classics team manager Allan Martin will assemble a strong side, including Neil Jenkins, Neil Boobyer and Garin Jenkins, while the men in white are likely to feature Jason Leonard, Jeremy Guscott, Ben Clarke and Mike Teague.

The Classics will be supported by a schoolboys seven-a-side tournament and a host of former internationals on the touchline, including Clive Rowlands, Mervyn Davies, Barry John, JPR Williams, JJ Williams, John Dawes and Rob Howley.

Tickets are priced pounds 10 and pounds 5 - with children under 12, accompanied by an adult, admitted free.

All gate proceeds will be donated to the Tsunami Disaster Fund.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 22, 2005
Words:681
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