Leinster-Connacht Champions Cup clash likely to be moved to Aviva Stadium

Large interest in last-16 tie in April likely to justify such a decision from province’s board

 Leinster’s Josh van der Flier and  Connacht’s Eoghan Masterson in action last month. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster’s Josh van der Flier and Connacht’s Eoghan Masterson in action last month. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

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The Leinster Professional Game Board will meet today (Wednesday) to decide whether to move their Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 second leg against Connacht to the Aviva Stadium, and the likelihood is that they will agree to do so.

Interest in the tie, which will take place on the weekend of April 15th/16th/17th and a week after the first leg in the Sportsground, is likely to justify such a decision.

Since the start of the pandemic, Leinster have effectively missed out on five marquee games that previously would have been held in front of sizeable crowds at the Aviva Stadium: a Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens two seasons ago, the December pool game against Northampton and a knockout match in Europe last season, as well as two post-Six Nations games against Munster.

This season, a restricted crowd of just under 20,000 turned up for the URC seasonal opener against the Bulls at the Aviva Stadium at the end of September, while a crowd of 25,403 was in attendance for the December European game at home to Bath.

Sell tickets

Leinster will also host Munster at the Aviva Stadium in the URC on April 2nd, which is just a fortnight before the Champions Cup second leg against Connacht, but the province would have more than two months to market and sell tickets for the round of 16 second leg.

The attendance would also be swelled by the number of Connacht supporters both travelling from Galway and based in Dublin, as evidenced by the attendance of 9,175 when Connacht hosted Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in October.

The two-legged tie against Connacht will complete five derbies in a row for Leinster, whose fixtures have piled up in light of postponements. After the trek to Cardiff to face the Blues this Saturday at the Arms Park (7.35pm), they have a week’s break before facing the Ospreys and the Lions at home, and then Benetton and Ulster away.

After another week off for the final round of the Six Nations, Leinster are due in Galway for a URC game before the match against Munster and the European double-header with Connacht. In what will be a hectic period of the season that is immediately followed by their two games in South Africa prior to a potential Champions Cup quarter-final on the first weekend in May.

The prize in their two-legged last 16 Champions Cup for Leinster and Connacht is a home quarter-final against Clermont or an away tie against Leicester.

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