HomeFootballInvestec Champions Cup: Croke Park semi-final 'a real privilege' for Leinster

Investec Champions Cup: Croke Park semi-final ‘a real privilege’ for Leinster


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Investec Champions Cup semi-final

Venue: Croke Park, Dublin Date: Saturday, 4 May Time: 17:30 BST

Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra & BBC Radio Northampton; live text updates on BBC Sport website and app

As rugby again becomes a temporary tenant at the spiritual home of Gaelic Games in Ireland, both Leinster and Northampton Saints have been studying Croke Park’s history in preparation for the Investec Champions Cup semi-final to be staged at the 82,300-capacity venue on Saturday.

Leinster have tended to play their Champions Cup knock-out games at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin but, with the national stadium already preparing for this month’s Uefa Europa League final, an alternative home ground was required.

Croke Park holds the Gaelic Athletic Association’s [GAA] biggest games of the season but other sports were historically not allowed to use the stadium.

That changed in 2005 and rugby made use of the relaxation when the Aviva Stadium was redeveloped between 2007 and 2010, while Saturday’s contest is the first club game to take place there since Leinster met Munster at this stage of Europe’s top competition 15 years ago.

From John Hayes’ tears against England in 2007, to Johnny Sexton celebrating in the face of Ronan O’Gara during that seismic 2009 provincial derby, there were some famous chapters of Irish Rugby history written during a short stay on the other side of the city.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen captained the province in the latter with his squad this week being shown footage from a game often credited for tilting the balance of power in Irish provincial rugby.

“It brings back a few memories, hazy ones,” Cullen said.

“It’s a real privilege to be here, it’s a magnificent stadium. It’s iconic, not just in terms of sport but in Irish society. I hope we do it justice this week.”

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