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Ulster's Lansdowne Road trip smashes Celtic League record

By Gavin Mairs

Ulster's Magners League trip to face Leinster at Lansdowne Road for the last ever game at the old stadium is set to smash the tournament's attendance record.

Billed as the 'The Last Stand', tickets sales have already exceeded 35,000 for the eagerly-anticipated clash on New Year's Eve in Dublin (kick-off 2pm).

With still almost two weeks to go, the historic match is heading for a sell-out and has already easily surpassed the current Magners League official regular season record of 27,252, who watched October's Leinster v Munster clash.

The record gate will be a massive boost to Leinster's coffers and will put Michael Cheika's side well on course to take Ulster's crown as the best supported club - even though ironically there will be thousands of Ulster supporters making the trip.

It looks set to be a bumper Christmas period for all the Magners League clubs.

Connacht's visit to face Ulster at Ravenhill on Boxing Day (kick-off 5.30pm) is heading for a sell-out while Leinster's visit to face Munster at Thomond Park the following day is already a sell-out.

It's the same story in Wales where the Ospreys put up the "sold out" signs up in early December for their Boxing Day fixture with Llanelli Scarlets.

Over 20,000 fans will be at the Liberty Stadium for this clash of the former champions while Newport Gwent Dragons are expecting to pack out Rodney Parade for the visit of Cardiff Blues the following day.

Part of the upsurge in supporter numbers can be explained by the performances on the pitch, highlighted by the fact that following terrific results at the weekend, three of the six pools in the Heineken Cup are headed by Magners League teams.

Munster, Llanelli Scarlets and Leinster all find themselves in the strong positions to make it through to the knockout stages of the tournament.

"Overall Magners League gates are increasing significantly for the third year running since the league adopted the regular home and away format, " said David Jordan, director of Celtic Rugby.

Meanwhile, London Irish are set to make a statement later today about their allegation that one of their players, Delon Armitage, was subject to racial abuse by an Ulster player following last Friday's Heineken Cup clash at Ravenhill.

The club last night issued the following statement: "London Irish is still collating information/evidence about the racial abuse incidents that too place around its last two Heineken Cup fixtures... the club will make a statement tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Belfast Telegraph


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