Water breaks could be on tap as temperatures rise in Marseille

La Rochelle may have the upper hand when it comes to the matchday weather on the French coast with 60,000 expected inside Stade Velodrome
Water breaks could be on tap as temperatures rise in Marseille

Sleeveless in the Stade: James Lowe looks on during the Leinster Rugby Captain's Run at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Heineken Champions Cup organisers EPCR have not ruled out the possibility that water breaks could be used in Saturday's final.

Temperatures have tipped above 30 degrees in the port city already this week and it is expected to be in and around that mark when Leinster and La Rochelle get the decider underway here at 5.45pm French time.

Expectations of an overcast day will help with that, while humidity levels are more than bearable, but it will be the actual conditions and temperatures on the field of play that will decide whether any breaks are required.

The Stade Velodrome is a superb, wraparound stadium but that makes it difficult for any wind to circulate and it was distinctly stuffy at pitchside on Friday afternoon for the Leinster captain’s run.

This is the province’s first time to play a European final on French soil and, while their opponents will be far more acclimatised to rugby in these conditions, Leo Cullen sounded none too worried about any of that.

“It’s not too bad out there,” said the head coach. “If anything, at 5.45 tomorrow the pitch is in the shade. When we turned up earlier on, it was overcast so there was no sun. When the sun is there, it feels a lot warmer for sure. Conditions will be great.

“It’s massive occasion, two great teams going at it, I don’t see it as a major issue. It’s warm, but yesterday when we left, it was lashing rain. I’d much rather a bit more warmth in the air and I think all the lads prefer that as well. I think it should add to the occasion. The conditions will be excellent tomorrow."

The capacity of the Stade Velodrome breaches the 67,000-mark but that is reduced by two thousand or so for the purposes of this game. As of yesterday, EPCR had reported sales of close to 60,000 for Saturday's decider.

However, ticket sales are one thing and bums on seats another. Thousands of fans booked tickets weeks and months ago in the hope that their team would make it to Marseille and not all will follow up by travelling now that this hasn’t happened.

Some, however, have. European Cup finals have acted as magnets for rugby fans around the continent for some years now and there were jerseys of all sorts, shapes and sizes dotted around the Vieux Port and surrounding areas in recent days.

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