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Leinster Set To Confirm RDS Switch

Leinster Set To Confirm RDS Switch

Leinster chief executive Michael Dawson confirmed today that the province are set to play their forthcoming Heineken Cup Pool matches at the RDS.

Michael Cheika and Michael Dawson at the Leinster press conference

Leinster chief executive Michael Dawson confirmed today that the province are set to play their forthcoming Heineken Cup Pool matches at the RDS.

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Dawson admitted that a deal between Leinster Rugby and the Royal Dublin Society was “95% certain” at a press conference today. An agreement, which will see Leinster play their three home matches of Heineken Cup Pool 5 at the Ballsbridge venue, as well as one or two Celtic League ties, is expected to be tied up tomorrow.

The RDS ground was home to Shamrock Rovers football club in the early 1990s and annually plays host to the Dublin Horse Show. For its expected 13,500-14,000 capacity for a rugby match, Leinster are to install temporary seating on three sides of the ground.

Dawson explained: “The situation with the RDS is that we have a draft agreement on our desk from the RDS. It’s been a bit protracted, but yes we are going to go to the RDS.

“The reason it has been taking so long is that we had to be satisfied that the surface we are going to play on could be brought up to the standards that we have now set ourselves in Donnybrook, having spent 500,000 on the two pitches, and at Lansdowne Road. It is one thing giving a better feel to people going to a match but the one thing you have to be certain of is that the players have a quality surface to play on.

He added: “We have a 10-point programme set out by Sportsground & Field Services Limited, who made a presentation to the RDS on our behalf, and these steps had to be followed. They have agreed to that. This afternoon, we have a final meeting with the floodlight people because by a 5.15pm kick-off in October, we have to make sure that our floodlighting is of sufficient standard and we have been told that will happen.

“If that is signed off this afternoon, I expect that the document will be signed with the RDS tomorrow and we will be able to confirm it, but it is 95% certain at this stage.”

Leinster’s opening fixture at the RDS would be their Pool 5 opener against Bath on Saturday, October 22, although Dawson conceded that Michael Cheika’s side may get an earlier run-out at the ground.

“We will play our three Heineken Cup matches there starting with the Bath match. We will probably play the Celtic League match against Cardiff at the RDS, the week before, just to make sure everything is in working order and to give our players a feel for the place.

“The reasons behind this move are well documented. Donnybrook is too small and unsuitable and Lansdowne Road is too big and too uncertain.”

Leinster drew crowds of 13,250 (v Bath), 9,100 (v Bourgoin), 12,750 (v Treviso) and 48,500 (v Leicester Tigers) in their Heineken Cup outings at Lansdowne Road last season.