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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Over 13 million supporters and 5,890 tries later, the Heineken Cup has gone from strength to strength with the 2012/13 season already creating its share of outstanding matches between the elite club sides in the northern hemisphere.
Perhaps not surprisingly, four-time tournament winners, Toulouse, were there in Romania on this day 17 years ago for the Heineken Cup kick-off. Back row Jean-Luc Cester had the honour of scoring the competition's first try as the French eased their way to a 54-10 victory in front of 3,000 fans.
Included in that Toulouse squad were Emile Ntamack, Thomas Castaignede, brothers Philippe and Olivier Carbonneau, Christian Califano and Jerome Cazalbou, who is currently working as a rugby analyst for France Télévisions.
The tournament had been launched in the summer of 1995 on the initiative of the then Five Nations Committee - now the Six - in order to provide a new level of professional cross-border competition. Twelve clubs from Ireland, France, Wales, Italy and Romania took part in the 1995/96 tournament, competing in four pools of three with the group winners going directly into the semi-finals.
Toulouse would go on to become the inaugural champions of Europe that season beating Cardiff 21-18 after extra-time at Cardiff Arms Park on 6 January, 1996. While that first tournament consisted of just 15 matches, England and Scotland joined the competition in 1996/97 to make it a truly European event.
Now in its 18th season, the 1,250th Heineken Cup match will be played in Round 3 when ASM Clermont Auvergne host reigning champions Leinster Rugby at Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday, 9 December next.
All European club rugby roads will then lead to Dublin and the 2013 finals with the Amlin Challenge Cup decider played at the RDS on Friday, 17 May (20.00) followed a day later by the Heineken Cup final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 18 May (17.00).
Seventeen years on, that first game in Romania has paved the way for what has become the world's most competitive club rugby tournament.
'Video feature courtesy of IRB Total Rugby