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'It's almost cavernous, there are echoes around the stadium when you're making calls. It is kind of bizarre'

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A general view of the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

A general view of the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

A general view of the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ex-Leinster back Luke Fitzgerald has said that playing behind closed doors could potentially hand an advantage to Saracens as his former team waits to see if next month’s Champions Cup quarter-final takes place without supporters or even at all.

A host of sporting events, including Ireland's last two Six Nations games, have fallen victim to the Coronovrius as it sweeps across Europe with others, such as Tuesday's Champions League game between Valencia and Atalanta going ahead behind closed doors.

The PRO14 schedule has also taken a hit with confirmation that games involving Italian clubs in March will be postponed, leaving Munster without a game for a full six weeks.

Leinster are slated to take on the English giants on home soil in the last eight of the Champions Cup in April, with uncertainty growing around the clash.

"Maybe we're jumping to conclusions a month out but from all the stuff you read, it looks like they've maybe missed the window for containment. It's very interesting to see how it all plays out. There are not that many windows to go and play these games," Fitzgerald said on The Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast in association with Land Rover.

"I've been really looking forward to that one particularly. I just feel they're the two best clubs still in Europe. And it's probably a last hurrah for Saracens in terms of this team and this group of players together.

"The only thing is, it would make it a level playing field for both teams. It's really no advantage for Leinster.

"You would have thought with a rocking Aviva Stadium that that would have been some kind of advantage against Saracens. even though it's a huge challenge.

"So that probably evens things out, probably in favour of Saracens a little bit, I would think. Again, it's probably a big jump to say what's gonna happen in that fixture as of yet. But it does seem like most of these events over the next little period are probably under threat, that's for sure."

The three-time European Cup winner had plenty of experience of playing in front of packed houses throughout his career. And indeed, with two Leinster Senior Cups and a Junior Cup during his schooldays with Blackrock, he got used to playing in front of relatively large crowds in his teens.

And Fitzgerald went on to explain how the atmosphere of a packed house raises performance, citing games against Edinburgh in front of small crowds as a taster of what a closed doors fixture may be like.

"It will feel like Leinster vs Edinburgh in Murrayfield. Just with better opposition in Saracens!" he laughed.

"That's probably how it feels like. It's kind of almost cavernous, there are echoes around the stadium when you're making calls.

"It's kind of bizarre. It can be hard to hit your top performance. It gets weird.

"When you start off your career as a young lad, you haven't really played in front of that many. You've played in front of a few big enough crowds.

A packed Donnybrook of three and a half thousand people that felt like a lot more at the time. And a few in Lansdowne Road that had reasonably large attendances.

"At that stage, I'm not sure you always play your best rugby (with a big crowd) there. You're still getting comfortable with that environment with the noise.

"But the further you go into your career, the more you nearly need it. You love the atmosphere, you play your best rugby with a bigger atmosphere."

Online Editors