Leinster Rugby have announced plans to host a match with two thousand spectators as part of a pilot scheme for rapid antigen testing.
The RDS has been closed to supporters for over a year with the Leinster's Guinness PRO14 win against Glasgow in February 2020, the last time that supporters were in the venue for a match.
Last Friday the province submitted detailed plans to the government for a test event, to assess the use of rapid antigen testing as a solution for the safe return of spectators to matches at the Dublin venue.
The province hope to use one of next month's PRO14 Rainbow Cup fixtures as a trial match.
Leinster's plans have IRFU approval and are a direct response to the government’s Rapid Testing Group’s recommendation to immediately implement antigen trial events, and include:
- Leinster Rugby would host a match where a pilot scheme for rapid antigen testing to detect COVID-19 would be trialled with a limited number of 2m socially distant spectators
- Pre-match antigen testing would take place by appointment and would be on site at the RDS
- The chosen rapid antigen testing system is EU approved and can successfully detect Covid-19 and all variants of concern
- The antigen tests would complement existing Covid-19 guidelines already in place at the RDS Arena for staff and teams
- Capacity for this proof of concept match at the RDS Arena will be capped at 2,000 spectators, just 11% of normal match-day capacity
Leinster Rugby CEO, Mick Dawson, gave further detail on the submission which he believes could help other sports and organisations.
"This is an expertly researched project, which has been subject to robust scrutiny at every level, and we see it as a key contribution to the Government’s efforts to return our country to some form of normality," said Dawson.
"This initiative has the potential to be used as a blueprint by all sporting, cultural and community organisations for the safe return of limited crowds to their events.
"In October 2020, a combined working party from the FAI, GAA and the IRFU submitted proposals to the Department of Sport around the return of supporters to our grounds in a safe and Covid-19 compliant manner.
"The report made a number of recommendations but in particular the need for trial games ahead of any full re-opening of stadia.
"Similarly, a report was launched last week by the Government’s Rapid Testing Group, chaired by Professor Mark Ferguson, which also recommended the immediate use of antigen testing on a trial basis in schools, colleges, workplaces and sporting organisations as an additional tool to help fight the spread of Covid-19.
"Leinster Rugby has been working with key stakeholders for a number of months to finalise plans for a phased re-opening of the RDS Arena.
"We are confident that we have the infrastructure in place to ensure a safe and efficient trial and Martin Murphy, Chair of the combined working party, has written to the Department of Sport accordingly, outlining our readiness for such a trial and indeed, as I have stated earlier, our willingness that any data and lessons from such a trial be shared with relevant authorities and with other National Governing Bodies."
Leinster drawn against Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle in their semi-final of the Heineken Champions Cup