With 50 days to go before the Heineken Cup quarter-finals get under way, ticket sales for the four high-profile matches in Europe’s leading club rugby tournament are on track to top the 100,000 mark.
Defending champions, Leinster Rugby, who qualified for the last eight with an unbeaten record, have already sold more than 40,000 tickets for their quarter-final against Cardiff Blues, and all indications are that an attendance of almost 50,000 will pack the Aviva Stadium for the match on Saturday, 7 April.
Not surprisingly, this is in stark contrast to the last time the two clubs met in the knock-out stage during the tournament’s inaugural season in 1995/96. On that occasion at Lansdowne Road, Cardiff defeated Leinster 23-15 in front of a crowd of just over 7,000.
The picture is similar for Munster Rugby who were the only club to come through the Pool stages with six wins. Munster take on Ulster Rugby on Sunday, 8 April, and the two-time Heineken Cup champions are on course for another 26,000 sell-out crowd for the much anticipated all-Irish confrontation with all tickets being snapped up through the club and supporter networks.
Edinburgh Rugby, who this season became the first Scottish club in the history of the tournament to win a Pool following a series of spectacular performances, are set to smash the attendance record for a home Heineken Cup match at Murrayfield of 10,892 with close to 7,000 tickets already sold for their clash with four-time champions, Toulouse, on Saturday, 7 April.
Meanwhile, tickets for the Saracens v ASM Clermont Auvergne quarter-final on Sunday, 8 April have only just gone on sale with the meeting of the current English champions and the 2010 French champions, who celebrate their centenary this season, likely to attract a capacity crowd of 17,000 to Vicarage Road.
With the knock-out stage of tournament on the horizon, supporters are also focused on the 17th Heineken Cup final at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, 19 May and there are just over 10,000 tickets remaining from the public sale allocation for the biggest occasion in the European club rugby calendar.
HEINEKEN CUP QUARTER-FINALS
Saturday, 7 April
Edinburgh Rugby v Toulouse, Murrayfield 15.00
Sky Sports / FR2 / Canal+
Leinster Rugby v Cardiff Blues, Aviva Stadium 17.45
Sky Sports / Sport+
Sunday, 8 April
Munster Rugby v Ulster Rugby, Thomond Park 13.45
Sky Sports / Sport+
Saracens v ASM Clermont Auvergne, Vicarage Road 16.30
Sky Sports, FR2
HEINEKEN CUP SEMI-FINALS
(Matches to be played on the weekend of 28 / 29 April)
Saracens or ASM Clermont Auvergne v Leinster Rugby or Cardiff Blues
Munster Rugby or Ulster Rugby v Edinburgh Rugby or Toulouse
17th Heineken Cup final – Twickenham Stadium, Saturday 19 May (Kick-off: 5.00pm)