Fan's View: Twickenham means short-term pain but long-term gain for Sarries (From Enfield Independent)
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Saracens fan Ben Ireland assesses club's decision to play Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster at Twickenham
9:17am Thursday 31st January 2013 in Sport
I must confess to being pretty disappointed when it was announced yesterday that our Heineken Cup quarter-final tie against Ulster would take place at Twickenham.
Much as it is "the home of rugby" and that's all very sentimental, the place is usually as soulless as the concrete with which it was built.
It does not have the feeling of "home" that we as Sarries fans have only recently been able to savour.
Moreover, there are three European fixtures in the London area that weekend which involve Irish sides (Leinster at Wasps; Munster at Quins).
Any Irishman, travelling or resident here, would be tempted to make the most of that - and all of them are very vocal. All in all, there's a big chance that the game will feel much more like an away fixture.
Now, it's not all doom and gloom.
For starters, our players are not fazed by hostile crowds. The only time it has happened recently was in Thomond Park, when we seemed so pumped up as to become inaccurate in our play - but Twickenham could never recreate that cauldron atmosphere.
Usually, the noise of the crowd - whichever side it's aimed at - serves only to raise our intensity levels.
Secondly, Sarries didn't have a great deal of choice here.
Watford, Wembley and Milton Keynes are all booked up for the roundball game. Allianz Park will have been top choice, but we would have needed to install an extra 5,000 temporary seats.
Given that as yet we haven't had the chance to prove that our travel/parking arrangements for 10,000 people won't ruin their borough, applying for 15,000 was never going to be easy.
It will be expedient, to say the least, for the club to retain good relations with the council.
So, we can assume that the club didn't have much choice - and that on the playing side we shouldn't suffer too much.
But what benefit can we get from it? Bear in mind that most of our supporters live north of London, and that going back there from south-west London at 9pm on a Saturday night, will not be pleasant.
What's in it for them?
Well, as rugby goes, this is a pretty major clash. It's the prime TV slot on Sky of the whole weekend. Recent English Champions (and potentially London's only club, depending on how you define it) vs. last year's Heineken Cup Runners-Up.
It's at the best-known stadium in rugby and it should attract a fairly colossal attendance - even if they are mostly Irish. The marketing opportunity is huge.
There will be neutral rugby fans there who will come back to Sarries games - either as regulars in Barnet, or one-offs at Wembley. On a higher order, it will be the best exposure Allianz will ever have got out of their partnership with Sarries.
I can imagine the occasion not being to everyone's taste, and the atmosphere being rather underwhelming. It's always hard to predict how the rugby will go - other than "close".
But if you just step back and look at the figures, you'll realise that this is a very big part of a very special journey...