Big demand for tickets
The European Shield final between Bourgoin and Monferrand in Lyon on Saturday is set to attract a capacity crowd of 42,000.
With the winner automatically assured of a place in next season's European Rugby Cup tournament, there is a phenomenal demand for tickets. The two previous finals, which were also all French affairs, attracted a crowd of 10,000 in 1997, when Bourgoin beat Castres, and last year 12,500 turned up to see Colomiers beat Agen.
But, with Ulster winning the European Cup final in Dublin last month when they beat Colomiers 21-6 in front of a record 49,000 capacity crowd at Lansdowne Road, the two tournaments have proved resounding successes.
Monferrand will go into the final in buoyant mood after beating Agen 28-21 in their French championship match at the weekend, but Bourgoin will have to pick themselves up following a 3924 home defeat by Castres.
Ireland will open the defence of their World junior under-19 title in the Division One tie against Georgia at Dunvant, Wales on March 26th. Australia are the only leading rugby nation not among the 32 teams involved.