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Ulster fans in Brexit limbo over Champions Cup Leinster match

Travel fears as quarter-final match with Leinster in Dublin falls on Brexit weekend

Ulster supporters cheer on their team at the Aviva
Ulster supporters cheer on their team at the Aviva
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The first impact of a no-deal Brexit could be felt by Northern Ireland rugby fans hoping to cross the border for the Ulster-Leinster match in Dublin later this year.

The two sides will play in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup at the Aviva Stadium on Brexit weekend.

While the exact date and kick-off time have still to be confirmed by the tournament organisers, a 5.30pm kick-off on Saturday, March 30 - the day after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union - has been mooted.

The Ulster-Leinster quarter-final will be only the fifth all-Irish tie in the history of the Champions Cup.

As the travelling team, Ulster will receive 25% of the stadium ticket allocation, meaning that 12,500 fans could travel south for the expected sell-out game.

Amid warnings that a no-deal Brexit will mean a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, this could lead to travel disruption for thousands of fans, who may face passport checks and increased journey times.

Last week, Irish Rail chief executive Jim Meade warned that passengers could be subject to passport checks on the cross-border Enterprise train between Dublin and Belfast.

The Association of British Insurers has also said that drivers from Northern Ireland may need a special "green card" when travelling to the Republic following a no-deal Brexit.

The potential disruption due to the timing of the game has not been lost on rugby fans.

Many have been taking to Twitter to question if a no-deal exit could impact on their travels plans, with one even tweeting Prime Minister Theresa May to ask: "What's the deal with passports and getting home?"

Both Ulster and Leinster have said they are "continuing to monitor the ongoing situation regarding Brexit".

A spokesman for Ulster Rugby added: "Closer to the match, as things hopefully become clearer, we will provide as much assistance as we can to our travelling supporters."

A spokesman for Leinster said: "It is not our role as a club to advise clubs or indeed visiting supporters as to their travel arrangements.

"That position will remain the same come the weekend of our quarter-final.

"We would advise any Ulster Rugby supporter to contact those in a better position to offer advice, like Ulster Rugby and/or their travel partner, for information closer to the time."

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