Record crowd for Leinster pool game expected


FORGET THE 12 pubs of Christmas lark, there is a far more enticing soiree at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday. Leinster entertain Bath at 6pm and with ticket sales already tipping over the 43,000 mark a record attendance for a European pool game in Ireland is expected.

This weekend last year 44,873 showed up as Leinster over-ran Clermont Auvergne. This figure would have been greater only for the minus 12 degree cold snap restricted many supporters who had purchased tickets from travelling to Dublin.

Last season 45,892 were at Wembley stadium for Leinster’s defeat of Saracens while the record for a pool match is 76,569 in Paris when Stade Français played Harlequins in the 2008/09 season.

Leinster, as international prop Mike Ross pointed out yesterday, are unbeaten at the new Lansdowne Road venue. “We have a good win ratio at the Aviva – we have not lost there in the Heineken Cup (or against Munster) – and it is great to be playing at the home of Irish rugby,” said Ross.

That unbeaten run at the Aviva includes last season’s quarter- and semi-final wins over the Leicester Tigers (17-10) and Toulouse (32-23). In fact, Leinster have not lost their last nine European outings, including November’s 16-16 draw in Montpellier which has lost some value due to the French club no longer appearing that interested in the competition.

Surprisingly, the Glasgow Warriors have developed into Leinster’s main rivals in Pool Three with eight points from three games. Glasgow recovered from the comprehensive beating sustained at the RDS last month by winning both their home fixtures, including a surprising 20-15 dismissal of Montpellier on Sunday. However, Fabien Galthie has clearly switched the French club’s focus back to domestic activity as he fielded a second string team up in Firhill.

Bath are five points behind Leinster, making it vital for the 1998 European champions to reverse last Saturday’s 18-13 result if they are to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

“The win in Bath means things are in our own hands so it is up to us to get another win on Saturday to keep accumulating points and so, hopefully, keep us in the mix for a home quarter-final,” Ross continued.

“It was tough work – the Rec is a hard place to come away from with a win – and, although we probably left a few tries behind, getting the win was vital. And we expect nothing less than another hard-fought game against them on Saturday. English clubs turn up whatever their position in the pool and Bath will be no different.”