Ulster are facing the prospect of a massive financial hit if they are forced to re-arrange two of their lucrative inter-provincial derbies during the Six Nations after seeing Covid-19 rip through the squad last week.
The province saw their Boxing Day clash against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium called off after recording a number of Covid-19 cases within the playing squad and their home game against Leinster on New Year’s Day looks to be in doubt as well.
Ulster had been hopeful that yesterday’s game would have sold out thanks to walk-up ticket sales, but are now more than likely to have the game rescheduled during the Six Nations.
With the URC schedule having been amended this season in order to avoid clashes with international weekends, it means those dates are all that are left for re-arranged postponements unless organisers opt to take a considerable risk and re-schedule the game for a European knockout weekend in the hope that both sides are available.
While all tickets for yesterday’s original fixture will still be valid for the rescheduled game, there will be some who will no longer be able to attend, while the diluted product due to international call-ups could turn away some spectators, too.
Ulster officials did all they could to get the game played yesterday, and were optimistic they could still play the game as late as Friday afternoon. However public health officials stepped in to call off the game.
While no discussions have yet taken place about Saturday’s sell-out game with Leinster, it, too, is at risk of being called off due to Ulster’s Covid situation, with the affected players having to undergo a period of isolation.
With Leinster likely to be involved deep into the European knockouts, the game would have to be replayed during the Six Nations and, given the Dubliners provide a significant percentage of the Ireland squad, that could have a major impact on ticket sales for the re-arranged date.