AN EXODUS of rugby fans from Limerick threatens its status as a city, and the European funding that goes with it, when a population census is taken on Sunday.
Diarmuid Scully, the mayor of the Irish city, says that as many as 20,000 fans could follow Munster to Dublin on Sunday for the Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster. Many could stay on to celebrate - or to drown their sorrows - knocking Limerick's population of 54,000 below a crucial threshold of 50,000, he added.
"At the time 23 April was picked, it probably seemed like a quiet night," he said. "Unfortunately for Limerick people, quite a lot of us won't be at home that night. Quite a number would stay on to celebrate if it's a Munster victory."
Scully called on Limerick rugby fans to return home after the match. "Should the population drop below 50,000, then Limerick wouldn't be considered a city anymore by European standards, and we'd lose out in terms of European funding."
Scully said census rules allowed forms to be completed on the following Monday morning. "I'm asking for a flexible interpretation of the morning - let morning stretch throughout the day."
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• Glasgow referee Andrew Macpherson, 24, will take charge of the IRB Under-19 World Championship final between Australia and New Zealand in Dubai on Friday.
PEEBLES SEVENS DRAW (Sunday, first tie 1.30pm): Berwick v Royal Navy; Haddington v Hamilton; Melrose v Hawick; Kelso v Jed-Forest; Biggar v Peebles; Boroughmuir v Langholm; Selkirk v Gala; Watsonians v Heriot's.