Thursday, March 29, 2007

Heineken Cup semi-final previews

April 21, 2006

Rugby Planet has their previews up for the Heineken Cup semi-finals.

In the first semi-final on Saturday, French powerhouse Biarritz Olympiques vs. English club Bath at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian, Spain.

The other semi-final is an all-Ireland affair between Leinster vs. Munster at Lansdowne Road, Dublin on Sunday.

The Limerick Post calls that second semi, "one of the the biggest games ever in the history of Irish rugby."

Now here's where things get really weird. Reuters reports, "Rugby exodus threatens Limerick's city status":

An exodus of rugby fans from Limerick threatens its status as a city, and the European funding that goes with it, when a population census is taken on Sunday.

Diarmuid Scully, mayor of Limerick in western Ireland, told Reuters as many as 20,000 fans could follow the regional team Munster to Dublin on Sunday for the Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster.

Many could stay on to celebrate -- or to drown their sorrows -- knocking Limerick's population of 54,000 below a crucial threshold of 50,000, he added.

"At the time April 23 was picked, it probably seemed like a quiet night," he told Reuters. "Unfortunately for Limerick people, quite a lot of us won't be at home that night. Quite a number would stay on to celebrate if it's a Munster victory."

Scully called on Limerick rugby fans to return home after the match.

"Should the population drop below 50,000, then Limerick wouldn't be considered a city anymore by European standards, and we'd actually lose out in terms of European funding," he added.

Scully said census rules allowed forms to be completed on the following Monday morning, and he called on census officials to be lenient.

"I'm asking for a flexible interpretation of the morning -- let morning stretch throughout the day," he said. "Let it stretch until midnight."

National Public Radio (NPR) has the audio report:

Alex Chadwick speaks with Diarmuid Scully, mayor of the town of Limerick in western Ireland, who worries that as many as 20,000 rugby fans could follow Limerick's regional team to Dublin this Sunday for the Heineken Cup semi-finals. If they don't come back in time for a population census being conducted that same day, Limerick's population of 54,000 may go below 50,000 -- meaning it could lose its status as a "city," and the European funding that goes with it.

Source: NPR

(hat tip to yerfatma at Sports Filter)


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