The launch took place in Cardiff yesterday of the 25th Anniversary of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments.
Tournament winners, Johnny Sexton, Leo Cullen and Allen Clarke, as well as Chris Robshaw, Iain Henderson and Dan Lydiate, were among the leading lights who attended the event at the Principality Stadium, in addition to Emile Ntamack, the Toulouse captain from the first European Cup final which was staged in the Welsh capital in 1996.
Saracens, last years winners were not present as we explore elsewhere this morning.
This years final will take place at the Stade de Marseille on Saturday 23rd May with the first round of games kicking off in less than ten days time.
It was confirmed that more than 40,000 tickets have been sold for the two finals matches combined as Marseille is set to become the 10th city to host a European Cup decider.
The tournament kicks off on Friday, 15 November with the Pool 5 clash of Gloucester and TOP 14 winners, Toulouse, at Kingsholm live on BT Sport, and the following day will see the continued free-to-air exposure of the tournament which has generated increased audiences in the UK and Ireland when Bath and Ulster meet at the Rec live on Channel 4 and Virgin Media. The match will also go out live on BT Sport.
Tournament organisers European professional Club Rugby has also recently announced that an extra Heineken Champions Cup match will go out live and free-to-air each weekend in France starting with La Rochelle against the Exeter Chiefs in Round 1, and this development will undoubtedly boost TV audiences in the key French market.
S4C in Wales will broadcast one live Challenge Cup match per round following an agreement with BT Sport and EPCR, starting with Scarlets home tie against London Irish on Saturday, 16 November followed by Cardiff Blues’ clash with Leicester Tigers at the Arms Park in Round 2 on Saturday, 23 November.
In Ireland, the coverage on free to air television will be on Virgin Media One with Saracens at home to ospreys in Round Two, Leinster away to Northampton in Round Three and then the same fixture in reverse being the games to be shown live.
The remainder of the games will be available to view on BT Sport which is available through the eir Sport pack and on Sky sports for an additional fee.
“The Heineken Champions Cup has been the one to win for a quarter of a century in club rugby and we have a fascinating season ahead on the Road to Marseille,” said EPCR Chairman Simon Halliday.
“On the back of an exceptional Rugby World Cup, stars of the global game are ready to lock horns on the continental stage and it’s an exciting prospect to be underway next week.”
Ulster Rugby away to Bath, Friday 15th November 1945
Leinster Rugby home to Benetton Rugby, Saturday 16th November 1515
Munster Rugby away to Ospreys, Saturday 16th November 1730
Connacht Rugby home to Montpellier, Sunday 17th November 1300
Ulster Rugby home to ASM Clermont Auvergne, Friday 22nd November 1945
Connacht Rugby away to Toulouse, Saturday 23rd November 1400
Leinster Rugby away to Lyon, Saturday 23rd November 1615
Munster Rugby home to racing 92, Saturday 23rd November 1730
Leinster Rugby away to Northampton Saints, Saturday 7th December 1300
Ulster Rugby home to Harlequins, Saturday 7th December 1515
Munster Rugby home to Saracens, Saturday 7th December 1730
Connacht Rugby away to Gloucester, Sunday 8th December 1300
Ulster Rugby away to Harlequins, Friday 13th December 1945
Connacht Rugby home to Gloucester Rugby, Saturday 14th December 1245
Munster Rugby away to Saracens, Saturday 14th December 1500
Leinster Rugby home to Northampton Saints, Saturday 14th December 1715