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Kingspan Stadium to break new post-pandemic ground

By Paul Smith
Andrew Warwick of Ulster tussles with Scott Fardy of Leinster during the Guinness PRO14 match between Ulster and Leinster at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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The pre-season game between Ulster and Saracens will next week host Irish rugby union’s biggest post-pandemic crowd.

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The Kingspan Stadium will play host to 10,000 fans when Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall returns to his former stomping ground with his newly-promoted Men In Black.

At around 30 per cent of capacity, the well-supported Ulstermen will therefore have only season ticket holders in attendance at a match which kicks off at 7pm.

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Entry and exit times will be staggered to avoid queues, while those present must wear masks in the former Ravenhill where there will also be no alcohol on sale.

Supporters are also being encouraged to use antigen tests before going to the game and on days two and eight after the match.

Ulster operate under different public health guidelines to the three other provinces who all await information from the Irish government on their own attendance limits for upcoming fixtures.

Dan McFarland and his team then cross the water to face Saracens for a second time on Thursday September 9 at 5pm.

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This return match takes place in a unique venue at London’s Honorary Artillery Company Ground located in the heart of the city of London’s financial district.

This is the ninth occasion that Saracens have taken a pre-season contest to a venue that is more normally used as a cricket ground.

The two games carry more significance than usual for those looking to find chinks in Saracens’ armour following their one season sojourn in the Greene King IPA Championship.

Bookmakers have installed McCall’s team as 9/4 favourites to regain the title they last held in 2019 prior to their relegation for breaching the salary cap.

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McCall’s team are priced as low as 1/7 to claim a top four finish in a Gallagher Premiership season which features 13 teams for the first time since the 1990’s.

Saracens travel to Ashton Gate to face a Bristol side who were beaten semi-finalists in last year’s English top flight in the competition’s opening round.

The United Rugby Championship does not begin until late September, with exact match dates to be confirmed following discussions with broadcasters.

At this stage local media report that Ulster will host Glasgow on the opening weekend.

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Kingspan Stadium to break new post-pandemic ground

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