| 5°C Belfast

Leinster aiming for an Aviva festive showdown


Special: Garry Ringrose is relishing Aviva atmosphere

Special: Garry Ringrose is relishing Aviva atmosphere

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Special: Garry Ringrose is relishing Aviva atmosphere

You can usually measure the success of a Leinster season by the number of visits they make across Dublin 4 to Lansdowne Road.

The Aviva Stadium has come to be the province's second home and a good one it has been too.

Last season, they played five times at the venue and in total they have played 25 matches since the old ground was knocked down and redeveloped and they've won 21 of them.

Currently, they are on a nine-game winning streak that stretches back to their 20-16 defeat to Toulon in the pre-Christmas game in 2015.

Today, they welcome Bath to the 51,700 capacity arena (5.30pm) for the third time and more than 40,000 fans will expect the home side to keep up their 100pc record against the Premiership side.

They pay a flat rate to rent the stadium but with the combined attendance of 138,138 they welcomed through the gates for their three home games at the Aviva last season, there was a considerable profit for the organisation.

Their two meetings with Scarlets were hosted by EPCR and the Guinness PRO14.

Leinster were quick to identify the promise of the stadium when it was constructed and pencil in two fixtures a year for the larger-capacity venue; their pre-Christmas back-to-back game and their home match against Munster.

The redeveloped RDS will be Leinster's home for the long-term, but their capacity to make a killing a couple of times up the road is a real string to their commercial bow.

Ahead of the first game at the stadium in 2010, Leinster CEO Mick Dawson outlined his vision for the fixtures and said he hoped the province would be able to fill it on a regular basis.

They have not quite managed it every time, but have only dipped below 40,000 twice in 25 attempts, which is an impressive record. They have toyed with the idea of moving the Ulster game across Ballsbridge, but have ultimately settled on the current model and it works well.

Munster's annual autumn visit is a fixture on the sporting calendar, while the pre-Christmas scheduling of their European home game has an appeal to floating fans as well as their regulars, and the European knock-outs look after themselves.

Off the pitch, the whole thing makes sense but it needs on-pitch buy-in to function and the players have responded to the move with relish.

"It's always amazing when you go out and it's 50,000 people at a club game," Garry Ringrose said of the experience.

"It is hard to find anywhere else in the world.

"It's amazing to be part of days like that, in terms of the atmosphere it does sometimes make a huge difference in the RDS or the Aviva when we feel like we have that 16th man on the pitch," he added.

Meanwhile, Munster lock horns with French champions Castres Olympique at Stade Pierre-Fabre today (5.30pm).

Belfast Telegraph