Following on from the strategy of holding the semi-final draw immediately after the completion of the Pool stages, ERC have now secured the availability of stadia for the Heineken Cup Semi Finals.
ERC have selected their prospective venues for the 2002 / 2003 Heineken Cup semi-finals. Following on from the strategy of holding the semi-final draw immediately after the completion of the Pool stages, ERC have now successfully secured the availability of stadia which will be able to service any of the eight possible outcomes from the quarter-finals. "The prime considerations of a semi-final venue are to accommodate a crowd in excess of 20,000, a city to cater in all aspects - particularly ease of access and accommodation - for the influx of thousands of fans while allowing those travelling supporters the opportunity to plan their trips well in advance," said Jean-Pierre Lux, ERC Chairman. After extensive investigations ERC have secured Lansdowne Road, Villa Park and Le Stadium de Toulouse as the potential venues. "We have chosen three prestigious stadiums for the semi-finals and we have set out to do this well in advance of the actual matches because we have so little planning time - just two weeks - between the quarter-finals and the semis," said Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive. "We have examined all the possible permutations and have come up with these three major venues to cover off any eventuality." Lansdowne Road and Le Stadium de Toulouse have both staged hugely successful semi-finals in the past. Cardiff beat Leinster in Dublin in 1996 while in 1998 Brive knocked out Toulouse and in 1999 Colomiers beat Perpignan at Toulouse's municipal stadium. The Heineken Cup quarter-finals (all kick-offs LOCAL time) are: Friday, 11 April: Llanelli v Perpignan (19.30 - BBC Wales and British Europsort) Saturday, 12 April: Toulouse v Northampton Saints (14.45 - FR2, British Eurosport); Leinster Lions v Biarritz Olympique (15.35 - RTE, FR2, British Eurosport) Sunday, 13 April: Leicester Tigers v Munster (16.00 - BBC Grandstand, RTE) The semi-final draw is: Toulouse or Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers or Munster Leinster Lions or Biarritz Olympique v Llanelli or Perpignan The possible semi-final fixtures at the three venues would be: Lansdowne Road - Leinster Lions v Llanelli or Perpignan Villa Park - Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers or Munster Le Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse v Leicester Tigers or Munster; Biarritz Olympique v Llanelli or Perpignan THE VENUES LANSDOWNE ROAD Capacity - 49,500 History - The venue for the 2003 Heineken Cup final on 24 May, the famous Lansdowne Road Stadium, originally built in 1872 and the oldest international rugby ground in the world, is home to the Irish Rugby Football Union. It is the venue for Ireland's rugby and soccer home matches. The stadium has hosted some of the finest games in rugby history - including the gripping 1999 final when Ulster beat Colomiers - and has been the venue for Rugby World Cup games. VILLA PARK Capacity - 42,602 History - Home to Aston Villa since 1897. Record attendance of 76,588 for the 1946 FA Cup sixth round tie against Derby County. Has hosted England internationals, was venue for seven matches in Euro '96 and regular neutral choice for FA Cup semi-finals. LE STADIUM DE TOULOUSE Capacity - 36,500 History - The original 1936 stadium - which has seen bullfighting, cycling, athletics, top flight football and rugby - was modernised in 1993 in preparation for being a 1998 World Cup venue. During the revamp, the 1998 Heineken Cup semi-final against Brive attracted a then full house of 26,000 and the 1999/2000 quarter-final against Montferrand a 20,000 crowd. Le Stadium required major repairs after being damaged in a chemical explosion in 2001 but is now fully operational.