Scottish club moves game 150 miles to catch Heineken Cup clash
23 March 2012 16:23pm
Greig Laidlaw with the Heineken Cup
Isle of Mull and McLaren rugby clubs have agreed to move their league match 150 miles to Murrayfield Stadium so they can add their voice to the record crowd set to roar on Edinburgh Rugby in the Heineken Cup quarter-final against four-time European champions, Toulouse.
The clubs' match in Scottish RBS West Division 3 was originally due to take place in January - the day before Edinburgh Rugby booked their place in the last eight - but gale-force winds ended all hopes of McLaren's ferry crossing for the fixture.
While Edinburgh were becoming the first Scottish club to win a Heineken Cup pool, the match was being rescheduled for Saturday, 7 April which clashed with the quarter-final.
When news arrived of the conflict, Isle of Mull head coach Gerry Ralston made it his mission to move the match and ultimately secured the chance to play in the shadow of the national stadium at 11.00am, four hours before Edinburgh Rugby tackle Toulouse in what is now the biggest game in Scottish club history.
Ralston admitted that relinquishing home advantage for five hours of travel by sea and land was unusual, but said that the change was met with little opposition from both clubs who look forward to a unique double-header.
He said: "Giving up home advantage is a big thing for us because teams generally don't travel well to Mull but as soon as we saw that Edinburgh Rugby were through and were going to host Toulouse we were all desperate to go and it snowballed from there.
"It's going to be a great weekend for the club as a whole. There should be about 80 to 100 people traveling through from the island, which is pretty good going from an Island of our size.
"We're spending two nights in the capital to best prepare for the match and make the most of the big weekend - we just hope our supporters make it to our game in the morning!"
Edinburgh Rugby managing director, Craig Docherty, said: "It's heart-warming that these clubs are prepared to make such a commitment and sacrifice to cheer us on in the quarter-final and we're delighted to host them here at Murrayfield.
"It's a tremendous example of the power and importance of the match but also a credit to the sprit of the sport and we'll be doing all we can on and off the pitch to ensure that the players and supporters have a fantastic weekend here in Edinburgh."
Tickets sales for the Heineken Cup quarter-final raced past the previous Scottish club rugby record crowd of 17,174 (which the club set against Ulster in the 2003 Celtic Cup final) with over 25,000 supporters already confirmed for the game.
Tickets are selling fast for the historic encounter, with the great buy-early offer helping boost the attendance to record levels.
Plenty of great seats are still available priced from £15 for adults, £10 for senior citizens and £5 for students and U18s at www.edinburghrugby.org.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.