LEINSTER Chief Executive Mick Dawson is confident the much anticipated PRO12 League match against Munster will be "close to a full house" come Friday night.
“The World Cup has been in people’s consciousness. To get the profile for a PRO12 match into the minds of people has been difficult because of the lack of media reporting,” said Dawson.
“Everyone has been talking about the World Cup. Now, we’ve got the launch of the Heineken Cup. It has been difficult to spread awareness. However, we have sold 43,500 tickets for Friday.
“The Leinster-Munster rivalry is becoming an iconic event that people like to go to. It shows there are a lot of people out there who still support rugby, despite the fact there is a recession on.”
This unique domestic provincial squabble has attracted the attention of the Irish sporting public like no other fixture in the calendar outside the ingrained love for the All-Ireland finals.
“Certainly, outside of those, we have a window in rugby where we’re not competing with soccer, we’re not competing with Gaelic games really and it is fantastic that so many want to see it,” said Dawson.
Coach Joe Schmidt will give the rest of his returning Irish World Cup brigade just one chance to blend back in before the first round of the Heineken Cup in Montpellier on Saturday week.
Scrum-half Eoin Reddan has been sick and he could be held over to the Heineken Cup. Much depended on how he came through training today.
The transition must be close to seamless. Munster are in his PRO12 line of vision; Heineken Cup newcomers Montpellier are just around the corner.
“It has to happen on Friday. It is about the immediacy of fitting guys in and trying to get started,” said Schmidt.
Last season, Leinster’s fortunes turned on their explosive return to form against Munster in this fixture following an indifferent start which yielded three defeats from four matches.
Captain Leo Cullen will want to erase the deflationary end to last season when Munster ruined Leinster’s unprecedented search for the Magners League and European Cup double.
“I think they are special occasions because the supporters buy into them so much.
“The atmosphere is special whether that is in Dublin or down in Limerick at Thomond,” stated Cullen.
“There are a lot of different things that go into the melting pot. I don’t think it boils down to revenge for the last game.”
Munster captain Paul O’Connell has been here many times before: “We are going to be tested in every way. Our scrum is going to be tested – our lineout, fitness, physicality. They play a good pressure game as well.”
Munster coach Tony McGahan refused to look beyond the significance of this Friday. The provinces are locked together in joint-second place behind The Ospreys.
Why is it so important? “One, it is a local derby. Two, it is against the best team in Europe,” he said. Leinster are in McGahan’s line of vision. Heineken Cup finalists Northampton are just around the corner.