Leinster stadium given go-ahead for €20m redevelopment

RDS to be transformed into a 25,000 capacity venue

RDS to be transformed into a 25,000 capacity venue

The home of one of Europe’s top rugby clubs has secured the green light for a €20 million (£15 million) redevelopment.

The RDS Arena in Donnybrook where Leinster play their home games, is to be transformed into a 25,000-capacity venue with the ground's naming rights possibly being sold off to help pay for it.

The new venue will also host equestrian events, music concerts and other sports as they arise.

Leinster will continue to play their home games at the ground during the redevelopment, which is expected to begin in 2016 and will create a mainly all-seater stadium with plans for one terrace to be finalised.

Mick Dawson, the club's chief executive, said: "Leinster Rugby has a loyal supporter base and the redeveloped capacity of 25,000 in a purpose-built venue will provide greater opportunities for our supporters and commercial operations.

"Gate revenue is a significant feature of our current business model, and we are sure that this redevelopment will help with this, as well as allowing us to explore additional commercial revenue streams.

"At the moment we have a section of terrace for supporters and though the final plans are not yet complete, we hope to have a terraced section in the new stadium to accommodate people who prefer this. Though the majority of supporters will be seated."

A consortium of architect firms, Dublin-based Newenham Mulligan Architects and London-based Grimshaw Architects, won the international design competition for the RDS Arena after submitting anonymous bids to a panel of five judges.

Michael Duffy, RDS chief executive, said it was a unanimous decision.

"Their winning concept represents an exciting design response to a complex brief. Entries had to accommodate professional rugby, world class equestrianism and music concerts, in an already very busy events venue," he said.

"These three elements were exceptionally well incorporated by the winning consortium who stood out for their understanding of the multi-faceted nature of the development and their vision for the RDS Arena."

Commenting on the significance for the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid, Mr Dawson added: "A newly developed RDS Arena certainly has the potential to significantly add to the world cup bid, and we hope to speak to the IRFU in due course."

In 2014 the Newenham Mulligan/Grimshaw consortium won the design competition for the redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse.

Leinster are the reigning PRO12 champions and are three-time European champions. The club is competing at the top level in Europe this year again and has a Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath in the pipeline.

Schmidt confident Sean O’Brien will be fit

Sean O'Brien on course for 6 Nations

Sean O’Brien on course for 6 Nations

Sean O’Brien is on course to feature in the first half of Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations title defence, according to boss Joe Schmidt.

The 27-year-old flanker is primed to end 14 months of injury woes by featuring for the Irish Wolfhounds against England Saxons on Friday night.

O'Brien has endured two bouts of surgery on the same shoulder since his last Test action, in Ireland's 24-22 New Zealand defeat in November 2013.

The bullish British and Irish Lion could now make his long-awaited full Test return in either Ireland's second-round clash with France or their March 1 showdown with England.

"Sean trained fully on Tuesday to be honest," said head coach Schmidt, as Ireland prepare to open their campaign in Italy on February 7.

"So we'd be hopeful that he'd be involved in the first half of the Six Nations."

O'Brien's club Leinster believe the combative loose forward could feature in Pro12 action against Newport Gwent Dragons on February 15.

Ireland host France in Dublin on Saturday, February 14, so if O'Brien is embroiled in club action that weekend, his Test return would then come against England.

Schmidt's Ireland side entertain England in Dublin when this year's Six Nations reaches its midway point, and O'Brien's return would prove a tangible mid-tournament boost.

Loosehead prop Cian Healy has been battling hamstring problems since September, and is another aiming to return to the Test arena during the upcoming competition.

Schmidt still believes Healy will feature during the tournament, but sounded a note of caution in respect of the destructive ball-carrying front-rower.

Schmidt vowed not to take any risks with his crop of stars working their way back to fitness, especially in World Cup year.

"We're still hopeful that Cian may have an involvement as well," said Schmidt.

"Cian looks in great shape; he's just got to hit a few markers to finish off his full recovery.

"Because one thing we don't want to do is to have someone reinjure themselves and therefore put themselves out for an extended period of time.

"So we're very much Six Nations-focused but it's a massive year, and what we can't afford to do is worsen a situation for a player with an injury."

Schmidt moved to allay fears surrounding the severity of scrum-half Conor Murray's neck problem, tipping the Munster half-back to recover in time to face the Italians.