MUNSTER Rugby chiefs are ‘extremely disappointed’ at the scheduling of their crucial Heineken Cup Pool One game against Northampton Saints at Thomond Park for Friday, January 22 (8pm).
Previous Friday night games have led to traffic chaos in Limerick and Munster chief executive Garret Fitzgerald admitted their calls to have this taken into account by tournament organisers fell on deaf ears.
Mr Fitzgerald said: “We contacted ERC at the beginning of the season indicating that we would prefer not to have to play our games on Friday evenings and we had the support of the Gardaí in that request.
“We would have accepted playing one of the three home games on Fridays but we are extremely disappointed that once again it is two out of three. Friday is the third of our three choices.”
Two of Munster’s pool matches last season – against Montauban and Sale Sharks – were fixed for Friday nights.
There were huge delays on the roads into the city along with major ticketing difficulties on the first of those occasions and while things improved appreciably for the visit of the Premiership side and this month’s game against Perpignan, Fitzgerald remains unhappy with a decision believed to be at the insistence of broadcasters, Sky Sports.
He continued: “Friday night does not suit us at all. The logistics are all wrong and it also affects our commercial benefits but above all it places a huge burden on our supporters, especially those travelling from long distances.”
Meanwhile Munster manager Shaun Payne paid tribute to the role of the province’s supporters in the victory over Perpignan in France on Sunday. He revealed the team felt a ‘responsibility’ towards their fans.
“It is undoubtedly a factor in what drives this team. First and foremost, there’s a responsibility on the team to each other but massively on their minds all the time is their responsibility to the supporters. I have been involved in one or two other clubs and the Munster scene is unique. You just speak of Wian du Preez or Jean de Villiers and hear their viewpoint. It is completely unique to anything they have experienced.”
Meanwhile the dates and times for the final two rounds of the pool stages were announced yesterday. Munster are away to Benetton Treviso in Treviso on Saturday, January 16 (1.35pm Irish time) while Leinster, riding high in Pool Six, face a crunch clash with London Irish at the Madejski Stadium, Reading, on Saturday, January 23 (6pm).
Heineken Cup Round Five
Friday, Jan 15: Pool Two: Glasgow Warriors v Newport Gwent Dragons, Firhill Arena, 7.30pm; Pool Four: Ulster Rugby v Edinburgh, Ravenhill, 8pm, (Sky Sports).
Saturday, Jan 16: Pool One: Benetton Treviso v Munster, Stadio Comunale Di Monigo, 1.35pm, (Sky Sports); Pool Two: Gloucester v Biarritz Olympique, Kingsholm, 3pm; Pool Three: Leicester Tigers v Viadana, Welford Road, 2pm; ASM Clermont Auvergne v Ospreys, Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, 3.45pm, (Sky Sports (i).
Pool Four: Stade Français Paris v Bath Rugby, 1.35pm, (Sky Sports i); Pool Five: Cardiff Blues v Sale Sharks, Cardiff City Stadium, 3.45pm, (Sky Sports); Pools Six: Leinster v Brive, RDS, 6pm, (Sky Sports).
Sunday, Jan 17: Pool One: Northampton Saints v Perpignan, 3pm, (Sky Sports); Pool Five: Toulouse v Harlequins, 3pm, (Sky Sports i); Pool Six: Scarlets v London Irish, 12.45pm, (Sky Sports).
Heineken Cup Round Six*
Friday, Jan 22: Pool One: Munster v Northampton Saints, Thomond Park, 8pm; Perpignan v Benetton, Stade Aime Giral, Treviso, 8pm.
Saturday, Jan 23: Pool Three: Viadana v ASM Clermont Auvergne, Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, 1.35pm; Ospreys v Leicester Tigers, Liberty Stadium, 1.35pm; Pool Four: Bath v Ulster, Recreation Ground, 3.45pm; Edinburgh v Stade Français Paris, Murrayfield, 3.45pm; Pool Six: Brive v Scarlets, Stade Amédée-Domenech, 6pm; London Irish v Leinster, Madejski Stadium, 6pm.
Sunday, Jan 24: Pool Two: Biarritz Olympique v Glasgow Warriors, Parc des Sports Aguiléra, 12.45pm; Newport Gwent Dragons v Gloucester Rugby, Rodney Parade. 12.45pm; Pool Five: Harlequins v Cardiff Blues, Twickenham Stoop, 3pm; Sale Sharks v Toulouse, Edgeley Park, 3pm.
*The broadcast details will be announced after Round 5 matches have been completed.
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