Saracens' switch to Twickenham a lift for Ulster fans
HEINEKEN CUP:The decision by Saracens, confirmed yesterday and in conjunction with tournament organisers ERC, to move their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster to Twickenham, means every Ulster supporter who could find the means to attend the match will be able to do so.
The London club had initially expressed their desire to hold the game at their new home, Allianz Park in Barnet, but the unfinished ground would have required the installation of temporary seating to comply with the minimum 15,000 capacity stipulated by the ERC. Hence,instead of roughly 3,000 tickets, Ulster will effectively be allocated as many as they want, and while the exact figure will never be known, it is widely estimated 12-15,000 Ulster fans attended last season’s Heineken Cup final at the same venue.
The fixture is notable for pitching Mark McCall against his native province for the first time, and also for pitting the Saracens’ director of rugby against the Ulster director of rugby, David Humphreys, his longtime friend and teammate at Ulster (with whom he won the 1999 European Cup), London Irish and Ireland.
Having avoided an away trip to Toulon or Clermont, and although they would never say as much, moving to Twickenham assuredly enhances their chances of reaching a home country semi-final at the Aviva Stadium against either Toulon or Leicester.
Harlequins will host Munster at their Twickenham Stoop home the following day, with the quarter-final line-up completed by Leicester visiting Toulon and Clermont hosting Montpellier. With Leinster the first of three Irish provinces to visit London that weekend when taking on Wasps in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals on Friday night, there may be crossover amongst Irish fans interested in attending more than one game.
Although Twickenham has staged eight Heineken Cup fixtures, including four finals, this will be the first quarter-final and the record attendance for a quarter-final tie in mainland Britain of 37,881, set at Murrayfield last season when Edinburgh Rugby defeated Toulouse, could be surpassed.