Leinster and Munster on course for dream semi-final showdown
Published 20/01/2014 | 02:30
LEINSTER and Munster must both slay big-spending French giants in the bid to set up a dream Heineken Cup semi-final at the Aviva.
As three of our four provinces progressed to the knock-out stages, it was confirmed two of them will take on stern opposition from France.
A scramble for tickets is already under way for the next round of the competition, although two of the provinces have at least secured home territory, saving their fans and players a taxing trip abroad.
Leinster fans are the only ones who will hit the road in their quest for another shot at European rugby glory.
They must take on Toulon away, meaning a pleasant trip to the south of France for fans this April -- although less so for the players who must face the challenge of beating the current holders on their own turf.
Munster welcome Toulouse to the cauldron that is Thomond Park while Ulster will entertain English opposition in the form of Saracens at the redeveloped Ravenhill.
The next stage of the European competition is set to take place on April 4, 5 and 6.
If Leinster and Munster both triumph, it would mean a mouthwatering clash between the old rivals at the end of April, almost certainly to be held at the Aviva. But before that, Leinster fans will be scouring the internet for flights to airports in the south of France.
However they have been cautioned not to plan everything too early -as the venue could be changed from Toulon's Stade Mayol, which has a 15,000 capacity, in favour of a larger venue.
While fans scramble for tickets for the next round of matches, players are relishing in the challenge ahead.
Brian O'Driscoll told fans on Twitter that the final eight teams are "quality". He pointed out that there would be a scrap between seven previous finalists and six previous winners of the Heineken Cup.
The Official Leinster Supporters Club (OLSC) will announce details of their official travel arrangements during the week, when the location and kick off time are formally announced.
There are no direct flights from Dublin to Toulon, however Ryanair operate a limited service from London Stansted.
Aer Lingus operate direct flight's daily from Dublin to Nice, which is 140km from Toulon.
A round-trip for the weekend would currently cost a supporter €286.
The OLSC were last night advising fans on their social media accounts to refrain from making any travel arrangements until an official announcement about the kick-off time from the ERC later in the week.
"We would strongly recommend supporters wait before booking flights until the kickoff is confirmed," the statement read. They were also advising fans, known as the Blue Army, that Joe Walsh Tours will operate a chartered flight, and to contact them should they be interested.
Meanwhile Jennifer Kiernan, the manager of the Munster Supporters' Club, said that there were 26,000 fans celebrating the win over Edinburgh at Thomond Park yesterday.
"We are absolutely delighted, it's great to get a home quarter-final. We had 30 fans from the USA branch of the supporters' club who travelled over for yesterday's game," she said.
"We'll have to look at the ticket allocation, and hopefully by Tuesday we will be able to make an announcement."
Among the fans in Thomond Park yesterday afternoon was Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea.
"There is no bunch of supporters who will get behind their team like Munster supporters here in Thomond Park," he said proudly.
Meanwhile, Ulster will host Saracens in their Belfast home, Ravenhill, after they defeated Leicester by three points in a momentous victory at Welford Road on Saturday.
Ravenhill is currently being redeveloped to host 18,000 fans.
Ulster will be desperate to make up for the disappointment of last year's defeat at the hands of Saracens, when the sides met in the last eight at Twickenham.