Heineken Cup decider set for Dublin return in 2013
THE Heineken Cup final will return to Dublin in 2013 and organisers are confident there will be no repeat of the last time it was staged in the city in front of an almost half-empty stadium.
The 2003 final between Toulouse and Perpignan was notable for attracting just 28,000 to the old Lansdowne Road, but ERC chief executive Derek McGrath believes the tournament has moved on from that time.
Last year, 40pc of final tickets were sold in advance of the finalists being decided and 8,000 tickets have already been sold for the Twickenham final next May.
And there is a distinct possibility that the Amlin Challenge Cup could take place in the city on the same weekend after a successful trial in Cardiff last month. Former Ireland international McGrath insisted that the capacity of the Aviva Stadium was not an issue when selecting the venue and said that Croke Park was not considered.
"2003 was only our second year of announcing the venue in advance and we stuck to our guns, because we believed in it," he said. "And I think the last few years have demonstrated that it's something people want to come to.
"If you were in Cardiff you probably would have seen jerseys from every single club in Europe. It suggests that people want to go to the final -- 8,000 fans have already bought tickets for Twickenham so it suggests that we have overcome that position. (The size of the Aviva) is not an issue for us."
Both McGrath and IRFU chief Philip Browne intimated that Italy -- the only one of the participating countries never to host a final -- would stage the big event in the near future. "I think Italy will have a very powerful bid in over the next while. It has to go to Italy over the next couple of years," Browne said.
Meanwhile, the IRFU chief refused to be drawn on the issue of Declan Kidney's contract -- and those of his back-room team -- which expire after the World Cup.