Tame the Tigers
Mouth-watering tie for fans as Leinster to host Leicester at the Aviva
Leinster are in line to move their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leicester Tigers to the Aviva Stadium on the second weekend in April.
"It hasn't yet been finalised by the Professional Game Board. But I would say there is a good chance we will go the the Aviva for the quarter-final," said Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson.
"If you saw the Munster match, the Clermont match, there seems to be an appetite there for the big stadium experience. The way Leinster have played, the way they have got out of their group certainly hasn't done any harm. It will help to fill it."
In addition, Geordan Murphy's Leicester are the best supported club in the English Premiership. They could bring 10,000 supporters to Dublin for what is, perhaps, the pick of the quarter-finals. As a reward, Leinster would host the winners of Biarritz and Toulouse in a potential semi-final at the Aviva.
In the other side of the draw, Northampton Saints will be heavy favourites to see off Ulster at Franklin Gardens or at a bigger stadium in the English midlands.
The northern province have completed their original goal, to escape the pool for the first time since 1999, and they would earn a home semi-final against either Perpignan or Toulon, if they can overcome first seeds the Saints.
The IRFU's pricing disaster in November has not been lost on Leinster. "We certainly will be competitive. We did it for the Clermont match. We brought a lot of kids up from the country. We will have to stress test that. We are very mindful of the fact that people are sensitive about prices at the moment," said Dawson.
Leinster will meet Leicester, the Aviva Premiership leaders, in a repeat of the 2009 decider which stands as the Irish province's greatest day in the competition.
"Once you get the home draw for the quarter-final, you just take what you get after that. If you can't win at home, you don't deserve to make the semi-final," said Dawson.
It looked like Leinster were on course for a quarter-final tilt at Felipe Contepomi's Toulon when Toulouse bolted out to a quick lead against London Wasps at Adams Park yesterday.
The knockout pairings changed instantly when Wasps flying winger David Lemi sickened Toulouse with a try 45 seconds from the end to secure a 21-16 win in Pool 6.
It was all precipitated by a controversial straight red card given by Irish referee Alain Rolland to centre Florian Fritz for a spear tackle on Tom Varndell. This outcome sent the French aristocrats on the road to Biarritz in the quarter-final.
The surprise result made room for Leinster to move up the ladder into an overall seeding of second to Northampton, the only club to come through the pools with six straight wins.
"Leicester are battle hardened. They have a lot of experience in this competition. They will bring good support with them. But I don't think Joe (Schmidt) or Jono (Gibbes) will have any hang-ups over it. We will do what we have to do," insisted Dawson.
Potentially, Leinster are looking at a path paved with gold as they have been drawn at home for a possible semi-final hosting of either of last year's finalists Biarritz or four-time winners and defending champions Toulouse.
The financial reward from going two from two in the next phase of the Heineken could even provide Leinster Rugby with the wherewithal to secure the long-term futures of Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Heaslip.
"It is a nice perk to have the possibility of a home semi-final," added Dawson.
Munster will have to make do with an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final away date at Brive with the carrot of a home semi-final against either Wasps or Harlequins at Thomond Park on the weekend of April 30/May 1.