Paul Sackey touches down during the 2007 semi-final at the Ricoh Arena
Reigning Heineken Cup champions London Wasps will begin the defence of their European title by playing 2006 title-holders Munster at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
This high-profile game, taking place on 10th November, has been switched from Adams Park, High Wycombe to the £113 million Arena to allow an increase in capacity from the 10,000 at Adams Park to 32,000.
The clash of the champions promises to be a fantastic opening to European action in 2007/08, and if Wasps previous meeting with Munster in the 2004 Heineken Cup semi final is anything to go by, the game has the potential to be one of the best rugby can offer.
The Coventry stadium also hosted Wasps' 30-13 semi-final victory over Northampton Saints last season and Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan feels that the switch of venues is in keeping with the magnitude of the game:
'This has the potential to be a very special game, and I am delighted that we are returning to the Ricoh Arena.
'We played our Heineken Cup semi final at the Ricoh Arena last April, and all the players and staff involved on that day were impressed with the set up at the stadium. The facilities for the players were excellent, and from a supporters view I think those who saw that game would agree that the Ricoh is a great venue for a rugby day out.
'I'm looking forward to returning to the Ricoh Arena, and I hope that with the increased capacity, Wasps supporters will come along in numbers to see us begin the defence of our European crown.'
Chief Executive Tony Copsey agreed:
'We expect this game to attract a large amount of interest, the increased capacity of the stadium will allow more rugby and sports fans in general an opportunity to see some top class European action, and I hope rugby supporters in the Midlands will join those from both teams at the Ricoh and add to what promises to be a cracking atmosphere for the game.
'The Ricoh is very accessible for both home and away supporters, with good communications from London and the airport in Birmingham, and we will also be laying on coaches from Adams Park for supporters travelling from the High Wycombe area.
'In addition, Wasps are currently working hard to put together a great day out for all those coming to the game. The Jaguar Hall, adjacent to the stadium , offers us a fantastic space to put on entertainment for all supporters before and after the game, with plentiful bars and food outlets ensuring everyone will be well catered for.
'We are also putting together some attractive hospitality packages, teaming up the usual Wasps warm welcome with the excellent hospitality facilities available at the Ricoh.
Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive, said
'The clash of the 2007 Heineken Cup champions London Wasps and the 2006 winners Munster is a match that all European rugby fans are looking forward to. We are delighted that Wasps have chosen to play the game at the impressive Ricoh Arena, which will allow thousands more fans from across England and Ireland to attend this showpiece tournament opener.
'ERC staged last season's Heineken Cup semi-final between London Wasps and Northampton Saints at the stadium and the facilities on offer to the teams, spectators and media are excellent. We can look forward to another great Heineken Cup occasion in Coventry in November. '
Daniel Gidney, the chief executive at the Ricoh Arena, said he was sure Munster would have great support from the large Irish community in Coventry.
'It has always been our intention to bring high-profile sporting fixtures to the Ricoh Arena and the Heineken Cup semi-final in April was another step towards us achieving that,' he said.
'We attracted more than 15,000 spectators to the semi-final which was a record for a semi-final involving two English teams and I hope we can beat that figure in November.
'Munster's support is certain to be increased by the high number of Irish people living in Coventry and it is a great chance for rugby supporters from Coventry and Warwickshire to see some of the World Cup stars like Wasps captain Lawrence Dallaglio and Munster's Ronan O'Gara in action.
'This pool game between the reigning champions and the 2006 winners is the highlight of the first weekend of action in the premier cup competition in rugby union.
'It is another great opportunity for the Ricoh Arena to raise Coventry's national profile and I am sure it will be a fantastic game.'
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.