Leinster Croke Park Bound

Leinster are in the Champions Cup semi-finals and will face Northampton Saints in Croke Park on Saturday May 4th. They reached the last 4 after dismantling La Rochelle in The Aviva Stadium. That result did the necessary to dispel any myths surrounding the current Leinster squad. They did that without Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose, James Ryan and Charlie Ngatai all of whom missed out through injury.

That tells you that the squad is brimming with quality. They will now want to go one step further than the past few seasons and beat an in form Northampton Saints side who dispatched Munster and The Bulls in recent weeks. Leo Cullen and Jacques Nienaber have dovetailed wonderfully in recent months since the South African’s arrival after the RWC.

Leinster are in pole position to put a 5th star on the famed blue jersey even though Northampton, Harlequins and Toulouse will have plenty to say on that matter over the May bank holiday weekend. Leinster will travel to SA for a two week trip in the URC and will most likely mix and match the squad that will go on tour. In previous seasons they have used it as a breathing ground for the new generation who are in and around the squad on a yearly basis.

They lead the URC and have cushion going into the two games and as I mention there will be plenty of young talent given the chance to shine with a small number of senior guys who may require game time coming into the crunch period of this season.

15 years on from defeating Munster in Croke Park 25-6 in the last European semi-final to be played at the home of the GAA, Leinster won’t face Irish opposition this time round  instead they will play a Phil Dowson coached Northampton Saints side who are playing some quality rugby domestically and in Europe.

Croke Park is in use as the Aviva Stadium is now out of bounds until after the Europa League final which is being staged in Dublin. Leinster will have a few weeks to see can they sell Croker out like they did with the Aviva in recent years in European action.

It will be tricky to get a full house I feel as the opposition isn’t an Irish side although it is a European semi-final and plenty of casual rugby and sports fans may make the trip to see what Croke Park is like to host another sporting event. I was there in 2009 to see the previous semi-final and although Munster were beaten on the day it was still an occasion to be savoured and remembered.

Plenty has been spoken in the last couple of weeks regarding Croke Park as a venue for a rugby game give the pitch dimensions and how far back the crowd will find itself and that comes from an ex Leinster player who played that afternoon in 09, Luke Fitzgerald. Leinster were stuck really once the Aviva was ruled out of the equation and given that Croker will be free on that weekend it was a no brainer….

It will be another special occasion for all involved with Leinster Rugby, both playing staff and backroom staff. It is not that often that the gates at Jones Road are thrown open and Leinster will want to make sure that this trip to GAA HQ will be as memorable as it was in 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *