18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Following on from the strategy of holding the semi-final draw immediately after the completion of the Pool stages, ERC have now successfully secured the availability of stadia which will be able to service any of the eight possible outcomes from the quarter-finals.
"The prime considerations of a semi-final venue are to accommodate a crowd in excess of 20,000, a city to cater in all aspects - particularly ease of access and accommodation - for the influx of thousands of fans while allowing those travelling supporters the opportunity to plan their trips well in advance," said Jean-Pierre Lux, ERC Chairman. After extensive investigations ERC have secured Lansdowne Road, Villa Park and Le Stadium de Toulouse as the potential venues.
"We have chosen three prestigious stadiums for the semi-finals and we have set out to do this well in advance of the actual matches because we have so little planning time - just two weeks - between the quarter-finals and the semis," said Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive.
"We have examined all the possible permutations and have come up with these three major venues to cover off any eventuality."
Lansdowne Road and Le Stadium de Toulouse have both staged hugely successful semi-finals in the past. Cardiff beat Leinster in Dublin in 1996 while in 1998 Brive knocked out Toulouse and in 1999 Colomiers beat Perpignan at Toulouse's municipal stadium.
The Heineken Cup quarter-finals (all kick-offs time) are: Friday, 11 April: Llanelli v Perpignan (19.30 - BBC Wales and British Europsort). Saturday, 12 April: Toulouse v Northampton Saints (14.45 - FR2, British Eurosport); Leinster Lions v Biarritz Olympique (15.35 - RTE, FR2, British Eurosport) Sunday, 13 April: Leicester Tigers v Munster (16.00 - BBC Grandstand, RTE).
The semi-final draw is: Toulouse or Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers or Munster Leinster Lions or Biarritz Olympique v Llanelli or Perpignan.
The possible semi-final fixtures at the three venues would be: Lansdowne Road - Leinster Lions v Llanelli or Perpignan
Villa Park - Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers or Munster
Le Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse v Leicester Tigers or Munster; Biarritz Olympique v Llanelli or Perpignan