Leinster-Clermont clash proving a major attraction

Wed, Nov 28, 2012, 00:00

Despite missing several of the jewels in their crown, Leinster’s Heineken Cup game against Clermont Auvergne is heading towards attracting more Irish fans to Aviva Stadium than to Ireland’s world ranking international match against Argentina last weekend.

Yesterday’s official figures took the number of tickets sold for the Leinster pool match past the 40,000 mark for the second of the home side’s back -to-back meetings against the French giants on December 15th.

Leinster will travel to France on the previous week on Sunday December 9th to Stade Marcel Michelin for the first of their meetings. Aa Dublin victory is important to the defence of their European title whether they win the first game or not.

Although Leinster have consistently had key players, such as Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald missing through injury, while Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy has played just twice this season, the province is likely to overtake the official attendance of last Saturday’s international against the Pumas, which stands at 43,406.

“Leinster Rugby are delighted to announce that over 40,000 tickets have now been sold for the forthcoming Heineken Cup Round 4 clash against ASM Clermont Auvergne in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 15th December,” said a Leinster statement.

“There has been a huge uptake in tickets both province and nation-wide for the visit of the French giants to Dublin in mid-December, with over 4,500 supporters availing of the ‘One Province’ initiative which enables underage groups of Leinster supporters to avail of tickets.”

Last year against Bath in the second of their Heineken Cup back-to-back fixtures and after they had beaten the English side in the Recreation Ground (13-8), Leinster drew a crowd of 46,356 to the return match, which Joe Schmidt’s team won 52-27. At the beginning of November last year 48,365 went to watch Leinster beat Munster in their Pro12 League fixture, also at the Aviva.

Defying the general lack of spending across all sectors, the lowest number of tickets sold this season for a competitive Leinster match has been 15,724 for their early season game against Newport Gwent Dragons on September 8th, a figure that eclipses the largest attendances for some other clubs in the Pro12 League.

“We are delighted to pass the 40,000 mark for a game which has really captured the imagination of the wider sporting public. The annual pre-Christmas European tie is proving to be an attractive event for a large range of supporters who have consistently shown their support for the team in our games in the Aviva Stadium in what is a great way of kicking off the festive season,” said Leinster Rugby chief executive Mick Dawson.

“Clermont are a world class side with two international quality teams within their squad and we have been involved in some epic duels in recent years.

“Both sets of supporters enjoy a unique camaraderie built up since the 2010 quarter-final and games between the two sides are packed with great passion and skill. I have no doubt that our team will relish playing once more in front of a packed Aviva Stadium.

“That we have reached this sales landmark with a little over two weeks to go is another massive boost to the team as they build up their preparations starting this weekend against Zebre in our home ground, the RDS.”

Leinster and Clermont have been familiar foes in recent years and in December 2010 Schmidt’s team beat the French side 24-8 in the second of their back-to-back fixtures, having lost the first match 20-13 in Stade Marcel Michelin in front of 16,106.

For that return leg in Dublin, the province’s fans again turned out to support in numbers with 44,873 paying in.

It was the third time Leinster had played Clermont in that calendar year with the December fixture a huge increase from their meeting in April of the previous season (2009-2010) when they played in the quarterfinal stage of the Heineken Cup in front of 20,000 in the RDS, Leinster winning 29-28 to claim a place in the semi-final, where they eventually lost to Toulouse in France.

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