The singer's gigs ahead of quarter-final weekend mean Munster will host Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium
Ed Sheeran concert forces Munster to play quarter-final in Dublin
An Ed Sheeran concert means Munster will not play their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse at Thomond Park.
The Irish province’s home ground is hosting the singer in the week leading up to the quarters on Thursday 5 May and Friday 6 May, meaning the pitch will be in no state to hold a rugby match on the Saturday or Sunday.
Munster, who progressed to the last eight with a comeback victory over Exeter Chiefs in front of a febrile Thomond Park, will instead face the tournament’s defending champions at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on 7 May.
Sheeran initially announced one concert at Thomond Park last September, on 5 May, before adding an extra show for the following day due to popular demand.
After multiple seasons involving reduced capacity crowds and costly bio-secure protocols, finances are at the heart of the strategy.
Munster Chief Operating Officer Philip Quinn said: “This decision was made prior to the season commencing and came at a time when economic factors were central to the decision-making process given the impact of the pandemic.
“While it wasn’t a decision that was made lightly, we have been vocal in our support for securing large-scale concerts for the venue for several years.
“It has been nine years since we hosted concerts of this scale and we are fully aware of the huge economic benefit to the local economy, along with the stadium itself, that these concerts bring.”
Alternative stadiums close to Thomond Park were deemed unviable, with the local Gaelic Grounds hosting Limerick’s hurling match with Tipperary on 8 May.
Munster’s other home venue, Musgrave Park, does not meet the 15,000 attendance requirement for a Champions Cup quarter-final and cannot accommodate the club’s commercial obligations.
Quinn added: “With only three weeks to deliver a quarter-final event, no other available venues within the province meet the operational needs and facilities of what is required in such a short timeframe.”
Consequently, the Munster faithful must head north to the Aviva Stadium, where Leinster regularly play.
Munster’s last match at the 51,000 capacity ground was a 13-3 defeat to Leinster in the 2019/20 Pro14 semi-finals.
They will play their old rival there again on 21 May in the United Rugby Championship.
French and European champions Toulouse have fond recent memories of Ireland, as they won 30-23 in Ulster last weekend to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals.
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