At face value, European rugby’s semi-finals bore all the hallmarks of sell-out occasions: The champions of England against the Red Army in one, the holders at home in Dublin against the most famous of French clubs in the other.
The venues, surely, wouldn’t take that much filling for such a stellar cast. The Ricoh Arena and Aviva Stadium offered just enough by way of collective capacity to match the tournament’s semi-final record, when Munster-Leinster packed Croke Park to its steepling rafters 10 years ago.
Instead the organisers found themselves confronted by the alarming sight of empty seats at both showpiece events, 26,158 of them. While the majority were at Coventry, one third, almost 9,000, could be found in Dublin for Leinster-Toulouse.
It prompts an awkward question: Is the Champions’ Cup still all it’s cracked up to be?
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