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Bordeaux braced for invasion of Blues fans

BORDEAUX is quiet on a damp Thursday -- but the locals know something big, blue and BOD is on the way.

In the countdown to Sunday's match, the longest pedestrianised shopping street on the continent will be awash with Leinster fans. Supporters are due to start arriving in the classic French city from tomorrow but as usual the Herald was a day ahead of the posse.

And we can report that preparations are well under way for the Heineken Cup semi-final clash.

The city's dedicated expats were hard at work today to ensure that everything is in place for the one of the biggest party weekends of the year.

The locals say that the Irish will feel very much at home -- the weather may be miserable but the craic will be mighty.

Shops and pubs have begun stocking up on extra food and alcohol to keep the crowds well entertained, none more so than renowned haunt The Connemara.

It has been dubbed the official base for the thousands of Blues fans set to descend upon Bordeaux in the coming days.

The popular establishment has featured on a number of French TV stations and has hosted the Irish rugby team in the past.

Owner Frank Jackson (below) revealed to the Herald that he had splashed out over €5,000 on blue and white souvenirs for the big day. The dad-of-three has ordered 20,000 plastic cups, 2,500 souvenir cups with the Leinster and Clermont Auvergne crests, 500 dedicated Leinster T-shirts and 3,000 engraved candy canes for the throngs to enjoy.

And to make sure the visitors don't get thirsty, he's had a whopping 250 kegs of beer delivered especially for the Irish revellers.

"The suppliers thought I was mad, but I know it'll all sell. During the Rugby World Cup a few years ago, I got in 600 kegs and they were all gone.

"This is going to be a huge occasion and we're expecting to be packed for the entire weekend ... We normally go through 50 kegs on a busy night, so you can imagine how full it's going to be on Sunday.

"RTE and TG4 have been on to me and I'm even hoping the team might drop by at some stage," said Belfast native Frank, who has invited 20 close friends over from Dublin to watch the match in the Stade Chaban Delmas stadium.

The chatty publican, who has been a resident in the city for nearly 35 years, is the President of the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English (WISE) association.

Fellow Irish bars The Blarney Stone, Molly Malone's and The Black Velvet Bar are also gearing up for the special occasion.

A march from the city centre has been organised by the official Leinster Supporters Club, to ensure that Blues followers, laden down with regalia, make as much noise as possible through the cobbled streets on their way to the ground.