7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
That game kicks-off at 7.15 pm and, 30 minutes later, Llanelli Scarlets will meet Northampton Saints in a repeat of the 2000 semi-final in the first of six games to be broadcast either live or as live by ERC's new UK broadcast partners Sky Sports over the opening weekend.
The Anglo-Welsh battle at Stradey Park is likely to feature the Saints four English World Cup winning heroes, Ben Cohen, Matt Dawson, Steve Thompson and Paul Grayson, while the home side will feature the Scarlets' nine Welsh World Cup stars.
'It has been the proud boast of some of us at ERC that our tournaments are home to many of the world's greatest players. But for the next four years, which will take in our 10th anniversary season next year, the two competitions will be home to the players from the world champions,' said ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath.
'England's triumph at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia last Saturday means that 21 of their 31 squad members will be featuring in this season's Heineken Cup. As if there wasn't enough rivalry between the elite clubs from the six nations who comprise the Heineken Cup, the opportunity to battle against World Cup winners is bound to add extra spice.
'The Heineken Cup, the biggest club prize in the world, offers players and spectators alike with the ultimate in challenges. Battle will commence on 5 December, continue in January and then reconvene in May for the knock-out stages.'
The second day of competition in this season's tournament will see teams from the remaining three nations enter the fray, with Munster returning to Bourgoin for the first time in five years. There is also a repeat of the 2001 Heineken Cup final in Paris where the reigning French champions Stade Francais host Leicester Tigers at Stade Jean Bouin.
Sunday will see Ulster make their first appearance with a trip to Wales to meet Gwent Dragons.