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Small Aviva attendance expected for Connacht-Ulster, while Friend is yet to hear back on Cloete try

Initial projections of up to 30,000 for the URC clash were well wide of the mark, with 6,000 to 8,000 now expected to attend.

Connacht also played Ulster at the Aviva last season when fans were not permitted to attend.
Connacht also played Ulster at the Aviva last season when fans were not permitted to attend.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

CONNACHT HAVE DOWNSIZED the crowd they expect against Ulster on Saturday with a disappointing attendance of around 6,000 to 8,000 now expected having switched the tie to the Aviva Stadium.

Initial expectations of up to 30,000 for the URC clash were well wide of the mark and while exact ticket sales have not been disclosed, Connacht say the trend would suggest somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 will attend.

There will, however, be a bigger-than-usual Ulster support base for a Connacht ‘home’ game, and officials at the Sportsground believe the venture has been worthwhile as they try to claw back some of the losses made during the Covid pandemic.

The Aviva Stadium has been made free of charge to Connacht but it looks like there will only be a few thousand more at the game than if it had taken place at the Sportsground.

Connacht have been charging ticket prices the same as for a home game in Galway. The move has not gone down well with some supporters and also some in the local business community, while Connacht’s hopes that people from the west based in Dublin would row in behind the venture in their thousands does not look like materialising unless there is a late rush. Tickets will be on sale on the day of the game.

Regardless of where the game was played, it’s tough ask for a Connacht side with just one win under their belt taking on an Ulster side with maximum points after four bonus point wins.

Connacht coach Andy Friend said they parked the frustration of Saturday’s loss to Munster on Monday but he confirmed that he has heard nothing from the United Rugby Championship either about the controversial try which Chris Cloete scored before the break or about any of his comments criticising the absence of a referee’s manager in the fledgling competition.

“I would have liked, possibly, some explanation, but in my own mind I thought, ‘Everyone is normally pretty busy on a Monday or Tuesday, if I haven’t heard anything by tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon I might make a few calls.’

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“Normally there is actually quite a healthy working relationship with Johnny Lacey, who looks after the Irish referees, and I feel like we’ve got a very good working relationship with the Irish referees.

So me calling that out was not a direct attack on any individual, it certainly wasn’t on Chris Busby, I just thought it was the lack of process, that hadn’t been undertaken.

“I’m sure they’re going to come back with something for me on that. I had a few other questions too as I do after every game, and I think every coach does.

You just want to get clarity on it, because you want to make sure you can deliver the message back to your team. That’s the purpose of doing it, it’s not witch-hunting, it’s not trying to find fault in someone else’s performance, it’s just trying to get clarity on what are the standards, because it does change quite rapidly.

“We’ve got a good working relationship with Johnny and the IRFU, from the URC point of view I haven’t heard anything and probably doubt I will because I don’t think there is anyone in that position.”

Meanwhile, promising lock Cian Prendergast is awaiting the result of a scan to establish the extent of an ankle issue but he has been ruled out of the Ulster game along with new signing Leva Fifita, who suffered a knee injury in training last week.

About the author:

John Fallon

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