FOLLOWING SUNDAY’S HEINEKEN Cup draw for the knock-out stages, Munster and Leinster will need to pull a couple of big performances out of the hat to respectively eliminate their French opponents.
Munster welcome four-time European champions Toulouse to Thomond Park for the first-time while Leinster must travel to the home of reigning champions Toulon. The provinces will meet in their third Heineken Cup semi final if they both emerge victorious. Former Munster flanker David Wallace believes the clash would be perfectly suited to Croke Park.
While the Aviva Stadium can accommodate 51,700 fans, the GAA headquarters has a capacity of 82,300. Indeed, a crowd of 82,208 spectators watched Leinster defeat Munster 25-6 at Croke Park in the 2009 semi final. Wallace, who featured in the Munster back row that day, told TheScore.ie that the ERC should look upon it as a viable staging post.
He said, “I don’t think it matters where it’s played. It could be played on a green in the middle of a housing estate and I still think it would be an epic match. A lot of water has to go under the bridge before then; two massive teams have to be beaten to get that result.
“People are starting to look forward to it and say ‘What if?’ but it would obviously be a great money-spinner to have it in Croke Park.”
The Allianz Football League final is slated in for the same weekend of the Heineken Cup semi finals — 25-27 April — but would most likely be played on the Sunday. A Munster v Leinster clash could feasibly take place the day before.
Jonny Sexton gets in Ronan O’Gara’s grill during the 2009 semi final after Gordon D’Arcy’s first half try. INPHO/James Crombie
Looking ahead to the quarter final fixtures, Wallace commented, “Leinster will be a little bit disappointed that they’re going away to Toulon. I think they would have preferred to come down to Munster and I don’t think they ever would have said that before.”
He added, “It’s very hard to go to France but when you have a team like Toulon, the champions, it’s even harder. They’ll probably want to make themselves into a great team by winning two on the trot and it’s possible s they have that class of player. It will be tough but if I was to bet on any side, apart from Munster, to go down and beat Toulon, it would be Leinster.”
“Munster would be happy to play Toulouse. That’s a first, that Toulouse are coming down to Limerick. We never had them in the pool stages and never played them in Thomond Park. It’s going to be a massive game but they will all be relishing it.”
*David Wallace, (pictured here with Daniella Moyles and some excited Ireland fans) was speaking at the Lansdowne Road yesterday to promote Aviva Advantages, who are offering rugby fans the chance to win access to the Aviva VIP Lounge for the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations game. For more on the competition click here >>