Leinster boss sends warning to EPCR after previous Champions Cup semi-finals tarnished

Colin Newboult
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen ahead of Champions Cup knockout game in 2024.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen ahead of Champions Cup knockout game in 2024

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen says that European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) risk an empty-looking stadium in the semi-final unless they offer ‘appropriate’ ticket prices.

The 46-year-old hopes the governing body learns the lessons from previous last-four contests where they failed to reach capacity at the Aviva Stadium.

In contrast, Leinster managed to sell out the quarter-final clash with La Rochelle in just under a week following their round-of-16 victory over Leicester Tigers on April 6.

Those two matches came under the jurisdiction of the province, who organised the games and set the ticket prices.

EPCR organising semi-finals

With the semi-final against Northampton Saints being held at a neutral venue, EPCR will take over the running of it.

Croke Park, also in Dublin, has been announced as the ground for the Champions Cup last-four encounter which has a capacity of 82,000.

It is a Gaelic games stadium but has hosted rugby union in the past, particularly when Lansdowne Road was being rebuilt.

They also hosted the huge all-Irish European semi-final between Leinster and Munster in 2009, which at the time was a world record attendance for a club rugby match.

Leinster will seek to get another capacity crowd when they face the Saints in May, but Cullen is concerned that the governing body will price out the fans.

“Hopefully EPCR price the tickets appropriately for an 82,000 venue because you want a big crowd, don’t you? Obviously it’s an EPCR event, it’s not a Leinster event. That’s the big thing you’d ask, because you want a proper crowd there,” he told reporters.

“You want to entice people to be there, to make it a special occasion rather than rip people off. You don’t want to rip people off.

“So hopefully it’s a proper game now as in we get a big crowd, because if we turn up there and whatever, 20,000 people… 20,000 is a lot of people but if it’s in an 82,000-capacity stadium then it’s a different kettle of fish?”

Champions Cup: Semi-final ties and dates confirmed

Previous semi-finals

There were 46,823 supporters at last year’s semi-final between Leinster and Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium, while previous last-four contests against the same team at the same venue – in 2019 and 2022 – had just over 42,000 people in attendance on both occasions.

Although they were sizeable crowds, the Aviva Stadium was not at capacity and would look rather sparse at the 82,000 Croke Park, and Cullen hopes next month’s occasion can match the iconic 2009 clash.

He captained Leinster as they overcame the odds to defeat arch-rivals and defending champions Munster 15 years ago to reach the showpiece event.

The province then beat Leicester Tigers in the final to win their first-ever European title.

“Nobody gave us a chance in 2009 to win that game but it’s a different moment in time now for the group of players,” Cullen said.

“It’s amazing to get that opportunity to do it because it’s such an iconic venue in Irish society. Not just sport. An amazing opportunity for this group.”

READ MORE: Leinster v La Rochelle: Five takeaways from the Champions Cup quarter-final