Restricted attendance expected at Aviva as Leinster set for Good Friday night showdown with Leicester in Champions Cup

Leo Cullen praises ‘amazing support’ as Leinster beat Ulster in last 16 match

Leinster will restrict the capacity for next Friday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Leicester Tigers to 27,000 by dint of keeping the Aviva Stadium’s upper tiers closed, unless demand exceeds that target, for the expected 8pm kick-off.

Whereas the sell-out attendance for their 30-15 defeat of Ulster had been the consequence of this Round of 16 tie being known 10 weeks ago, Leinster have just a six-day turnaround, and just five working days to sell tickets in the build-up to Easter.

“It was amazing support out there,” said Leo Cullen following the win. “In terms of an occasion, it’s great. Obviously, the conditions made it difficult for it to be a great spectacle. There was a lot of kicking from both teams. That unfortunately is just the way it is, lashing rain and you’ve got to play the conditions.

“I thought we played the game in the right area, generally, and that’s important, just playing down the right ends of the field because it’s cup rugby. There were a couple of times we did get ourselves into trouble but, overall, we’re pleased to get through because it’s not a straightforward competition is it?


“If you think you go through the pool stages and then you face Ulster, the good, cohesive team that they are, it’s about getting through. A big thanks to everyone who turned out to be at the game today.”

Cullen also joked: “Johnny Sexton is selling tickets for the game next week now to try to get a big crowd because we’re back here next Friday and I know there’s a lot going on at this time of year but it would be amazing to have a big crowd again.”

Looking ahead to the quarter-final against Leicester, Cullen ventured:

“A similar type of game isn’t it? They’ll kick a fair bit off ‘9′, very organised in terms of their kick-chase, so they’ll try to play that pressurised, squeeze type of game.

“They played last night against Edinburgh in pretty horrific conditions. Hopefully it’s a slightly drier day so you can see bit more fluid, running rugby from both teams.

“You see the way England played here a couple of weeks ago, that sort of Steve Borthwick template. They’re pretty big into their stats in terms of kicking, that sort of kicking metrics stats that they use to play that game model and Wigglesworth as an ex-’9′, Sarries as well, so he understands what it takes to be successful at the top end of the game.

“It’s going to be a good challenge for us again. Now, just talking to the guys in the dressingroom, it’s all about recovery and trying to turn the page quickly, it’s a very unusual sort of dynamic isn’t it? In the past you’d have a couple of weeks’ lead-in into this game.”

Josh van der Flier was Leinster’s one casualty when forced off with an ankle injury and Cullen admitted the World Player of the Year is a doubt for the game.

“We’ll see. I don’t know the full extent of it. He seemed to be moving okay, but obviously he’s had to come off with it so...”

Asked if facing Leinster was the toughest challenge in club rugby, the Ulster head coach Dan McFarland said: “Yeah. They’re a good team, aren’t they? I was really proud of the way our guys fronted up physically. I thought the preparation from the support staff and the players during the week in the lead-up to this game was excellent.

“But on the day, you’ve got to be able to execute to a really, really high level and be really precise when you’re playing a team like Leinster because there was barely a gimme today. There was barely an occasion where they would make an error and give us some sort of access. Everything that was won was fought for.”

“On the reverse side, we probably lacked a bit of discipline that gave access and they were ruthless there, particularly off the back of our scores which didn’t really allow us to gain any momentum in the game. So that was probably the story of it.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times