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Full house not Blues option

A dose of reality is delivered by Dawson

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BLUE WAVE: Having big crowds at Leinster games seem very far away. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

BLUE WAVE: Having big crowds at Leinster games seem very far away. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

BLUE WAVE: Having big crowds at Leinster games seem very far away. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Waking up yesterday to news that New Zealand would not be introducing crowd limits ahead of this weekend's Super Rugby return - for a few hours at least, the mind wandered towards the possibility of Irish rugby perhaps being able to follow suit in August.

That sense of positivity didn't last very long, however, as Leinster CEO Mick Dawson was soon on hand to add a dose of reality to proceedings.

If the last few months in lockdown have taught us anything, it is the importance of appreciating the little things in life, and while New Zealand is situated on the other side of the globe, it was only natural to feed off their optimism.

Battle

For all that Ireland has made huge strides in recent weeks in the battle against Covid-19, as a country we are still a long way off the enviable position New Zealand now finds itself in.

Yesterday's announcement that the Kiwis have lifted the majority of lockdown restrictions as New Zealand no longer has a single active coronavirus case was another hugely welcome development.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern even admitted that she "did a little dance" upon hearing the news, but it will be a while yet before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar dances an Irish jig.

Come Saturday morning, all eyes will be on Super Rugby Aotearoa, and even more so now that supporters can return en masse.

Major strides have also been made in Australia where the NRL (National Rugby League) is preparing to welcome a small number of fans into venues this weekend.

The IRFU, like every other rugby union, are counting the cost of the pandemic, and while they will be encouraged by New Zealand's positive developments, there is a growing suggestion that crowds returning to the provincial venues are still much further down the line.

Irish rugby is working towards a restart date of August 22 for a series of interpro clashes behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium, yet a cloud of uncertainty still looms large.

Season tickets have already been put on hold, with Leinster and Ulster introducing membership schemes yesterday, designed to recoup some of the lost revenue.

Regardless of how any of those initiatives fare for the four provinces, it will be a drop in the ocean compared to the kind of money they have lost and are continuing to haemorrhage without paying punters coming through the turnstiles. It's the stark reality, and Dawson was on hand to remind everyone of how far we still have to go on this arduous journey.

"Last Friday's announcement by the Government was another hugely positive step in the right direction and hopefully that continues in the coming weeks and months but the reality is that we are still some way short of offering full houses in a safe environment for our supporters and staff," the Leinster chief warned.

"Without match-day revenue and season ticket sales, the club is taking a significant financial hit so this ('official membership') offering will allow us to offset some of that loss."