Rugby fans in race to book trips for semis
EAGER rugby fans were beginning to plan their mass exodus last night as the venues for the Heineken Cup semi-final clashes were announced.
Flight fares were already on the rise as Munster and Leinster supporters geared up for their teams' bids to make the final in Paris.
More than 5,000 Leinster fans are expected to make the journey to watch their team take on Toulouse on Saturday, May 1, on the French side's home turf at Le Stadium Toulouse.
Up to 8,000 Munster supporters are also expected to venture to the Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian on May 2, when their team will take on Biarritz Olympique.
Paddy Baird, managing director of Munster and Leinster Sports Travel -- which also provides the official travel arrangements for the Leinster team -- said he expected that the semi-final matches would prove a strong lure for supporters, despite the downturn.
"There is no doubt about it, people may cherry-pick which matches they go to now," he said.
Many cost-conscious fans are expected to fly to other locations in France and then make the rest of the journey by train.
A package is also being planned to allow fans take in both games in Toulouse and San Sebastian. Mr Baird said this might cost about €800 but the price was still being finalised last night.
A one-night package to watch Munster in action, including flights, accommodation and taxes, will cost around €550. Further details are available on www.munstersportstravel.com.
"Flights are a lot more expensive than earlier rounds due to it being the summer season," explained Mr Baird.
He added: "Prices will start to climb and will be astronomical in another few days."
Increased demand was already pushing up flight prices last night. A flight back from Biarritz airport, which is around 50km away from San Sebastian, on Monday, May 3 was available at €215.
A return flight with Aer Lingus from Toulouse to Dublin on the same day was priced €147. Both prices include taxes and charges.