Monday 11 December 2017

Collision course

David Kelly

David Kelly

Heineken Cup organisers ERC are desperately trying to keep a lid on a blazing row about whether the roof should be open for this weekend's Millennium Stadium final between Northampton Saints and Leinster.

Both teams appear to have put themselves on collision course with the governing body by insisting the roof should be kept open.

Each of the three previous European finals held in Cardiff -- won by Leicester in 2002 and Munster in '06 and '08 -- have all been played with the 8,000-tonne retractable roof closed.

However Saints boss Jim Mallinder said the English club were "in discussions" in an attempt to persuade ERC to break with that tradition.

"We have played all our games open to the elements and we would expect the final to be played under similar conditions," said Mallinder.

And earlier this week, Leinster out-half Jonathan Sexton was asked his opinion on whether the roof would be closed.

"Not definitely," he said on Monday. "I think both sides are being consulted and if the weather is going to be bad it will be closed and if it is good weather it will be up to the coaches."

Hence it would seem both teams are eager to leave the roof open, despite the wishes of the organisers.

For Six Nations matches, both teams have to agree for the roof to be closed and last year Scotland coach Andy Robinson insisted that it remained open for his side's game against Wales, despite the inclement conditions.

ERC have already stated that they will consult both coaches. A spokesman for ERC insisted yesterday that the decision would be made by the governing body today.

Meanwhile, England flanker Tom Wood has been ruled out of the final, despite having slept in an oxygen tent for a month in a desperate attempt to recover from a hairline fracture of his shin he sustained on April 19.

Mallinder confirmed that England winger Chris Ashton is fit to play, even though he needed stitches after being punched three times by Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi in Saturday's English Premiership semi-final defeat.

Brian O'Driscoll is expected to recover in time from a knee injury.

Irish Independent

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