It's a concept that has grown and grown since it's humbles begins in Constanta, Romania back in 1995, with millions of fans witnessing elation and heartache in equal measure.
And although domestic leagues continue to provide the mainstay of fixtures throughout the year, it is European rugby that is seen as the pinnacle of the club calendar.
But just why is Heineken Cup rugby held in such high regard? The coaches and players often sing the tournament's praises but what about those just slightly removed from the onfield efforts; those men and women who either follow the game for media outlets or the press officers who travel far and wide with their respective teams.
We caught up with a number of journalists and club officials and asked them for their very own European highlights. They told us how their own job differs for a European encounter and talked us through some of their favourite memories of Heineken Cup rugby. Here's what they had to say…
Chris Hewett - The Independent
"I would describe it as the best tournament in world rugby. For the real officiando, it's got unfamiliarity, it's got partisanship, it's got fantastic passion. The whole point is that it's a real jewel over nine weekends a year. Many of us feel that the mystery of international rugby has diminished, evaporated almost. We see too much of the Wallabies, too much of the All Blacks, there's no mystery any more. But there's still a fantastic mystery attached to Heineken Cup rugby.
"You've had Toulon and Racing Metro this year. A lot of us haven't seen these guys play in their present formations and at their present strength. That's a fascination that comes with the tournament. And we've always had that, all the way through. That unfamiliarity and that mystery is what makes the Heineken Cup special.
"There are almost too many great games to pick a favourite. Something gets thrown up every year. I speak as someone who was born and bred in Bath. In may respects, before the Heineken Cup started, Bath were among the pioneers. Bath and Toulouse were the pioneers of European rugby, if you like. So it was a pretty special moment when Bath won the title in 1998, although, to this day, none of us can work out how they did. I was in Bordeaux and they got absolutely smashed against Brive! It was extraordinary. That was special.
"I have massive respect for Toulouse, especially. I think they're a wonderful, wonderful rugby club and probably the kind of club everybody in world rugby would aspire to. They've had three coaches in 30 years, that's pretty unusual in the professional game. But it's an extraordinary tradition they have there.
"In a sense, the side that really defines Heineken Cup rugby to me is Brive. They came from nowhere, staggered everyone and ran Leicester ragged with 15 blokes who even us rugby nuts probably hadn't heard of 13 of them. They came down to Cardiff in that famous final in 1997 and ran rings round Leicester. It was an astonishing performance and that's what the Heineken Cup can deliver. It's still a surprising tournament and, in an age of wall-to-wall rugby, surprises are nuggets of gold."
Gary Sherrard - head of communications at Leicester Tigers
"The big difference in Europe is seeing people you don't see week in, week out over the course of the league season. It's great to be able to do that. Home and away you meet people from other clubs, other media organisations, different countries or somebody who has an interest in European rugby who you don't see every other week.
"That has it's challenges because people don't know the lie of the land everywhere they go, but, to me, that's the highlight of it.
"There's bigger media demands. There's TV companies from every country who want to have a slice of the coach or the man of the match and it takes a lot more organisation in that respect.
"In the lead up, everyone wants a slice of the action. The media always want to see the coach or the players. There's always a link somewhere along the line with Tigers having played so many seasons in Europe. They've usually played against the opposition somewhere or there's a guy who's an international room-mate of the star man from the other team etc, so everybody wants a piece of that. It's an important part of it and it's great for the profile of the game and the tournament.
"One of the differences you find is that the local paper and the local TV media from the opposition side always want interviews during the preview time, whereas perhaps in the league those guys are just concentrating on their own team's build up and don't have the time or the space or the inclination to go to opposition clubs.
"When you play against a Welsh club, the Welsh papers come up for the previews mob handed; the Irish always come over for the previews of Irish games and that just shows you the profile of the competition.
"We've also had some excellent away trips. I think the worst thing you can do is get a draw against somebody you played the previous season. You want to try somewhere different and see somewhere different - I think that's the whole purpose of the competition, to spread the word.
"To me, going somewhere like Viadana or Treviso is just as great as going to Perpignan or Clermont Auvergne. Treviso was a really interesting, attractive place. I like Clermont and our trip to Perpignan in 2008 was Dan Carter's debut.
"Then there's Munster and winning at Thomond Park in 2007. I also really enjoyed going to Leinster when we played them three years ago in what was their first European game at the RDS. To play at a venue that hadn't been used for the competition before, with hedges around the edge of the pitch, a temporary stand on one side and with dressing rooms being built inside what is an equestrian centre, plus it being Marcello Loffreda's first game, plus getting a rollocking from Martin Corry because my phone rang in the dressing room, all those things made it memorable.
"Personally, I'm sad that I didn't get to go and see the Scarlets at Stradey Park because it was always a ground I wanted to go to having grown up watching the Welsh teams of the '70s.
"There's something attractive in every single away game. I can't really think of one that stands out above the rest but it would probably have to be Munster because of the result and going to Thomond Park for the first time on a personal basis."
Mark Orders - South Wales Evening Post
"It's a fantastic competition and a great experience. We went to San Sebastian last year to see the Ospreys play Biarritz and then we went straight up to Toulouse to see their quarter-final against Stade Francais.
"The colour, the variety and the quality of the rugby was a league apart from virtually anything you see in the northern hemisphere. It was even better than the Six Nations dare I say.
"The atmosphere in Toulouse was something else and the Ospreys game in Biarritz was a classic. There was just one point separating the sides. It was two sides like heavyweight boxers throwing punches. That was as good as any trip I've been on.
"The thing about Europe is that you don't know what you're going to get. You could get a free-running affair like we saw in San Sebastian, or you could have to grind out a victory in the mud on a wet January day. You always get that variety and it's a great mix."
Chris Wearmouth - media manager at Northampton Saints
"There is a slightly different buzz and a different feel to the Heineken Cup. Every club brings a different atmosphere, no matter how many or how few fans travel.
"The first game against Munster last season is right up there in my top 10 sporting occasions of all time. That's regardless of the fact that I work for the club and am a Saints fan. It's right up there. It was just fantastic.
"The Munster fans must have put about £10 million into the Northampton economy over the weekend. We officially sold about three-and-a-half thousand tickets to Munster fans and we released some last-gasp hospitality tickets and they were snapped up was well. It shows how European rugby can really help a town as a whole by bringing a lot of inward investment. If you get a high-profile European tie, you get lots of people from outside the town wanting to come into it. The atmosphere was tremendous and there was no trouble, not even a hint of it.
"I think the top four in terms of my favourite away trips, in no particular order, would be the quarter-final win over Biarritz in San Sebastian. That was unbelievably good. It's a great stadium, the atmosphere was fantastic and the result speaks for itself. Especially given the season Saints were having.
"The celebration was great but so was the reaction the team got from the Biarritz fans because they applauded us. There weren't any boos and whistles. They recognized that we'd done a number on them, tackled our hearts out and deserved to get the win, and they applauded Saints off the field.
"That was my first big European trip as the Club's press officer. But I'd been on European trips as a supporter with the Club before, one of which was a quarter-final against Toulouse in 2005 which was unbelievable. It was a Friday night with 32-33,000 in the stadium.
"Supporters absolutely love the experience, too. In San Sebastian, everyone made a weekend of it. People flew out on Friday and came back on Monday or Tuesday. It's a lovely town and it was a proper European weekend.
"Then we had two trips to Munster last year. Thomond Park was fantastic, especially on the Friday night when the atmosphere was tremendous. And then my other favourite trip was the one to Treviso last year. It was cold but clear. It was the weekend before Christmas and it was great. We went to bed on the Friday night thinking everything was fine but then the wife gives me a dig in the ribs on Saturday morning, saying 'you need to go and have a look outside'. I opened the window and eight inches of snow had fallen overnight.
"We got to the ground in the freakiest taxi drive ever in the snow. When we arrived, Treviso had enlisted 40 people to come and clear the pitch. They pulled in loads of players who weren't playing and all their management were there helping to clear it, as were loads of the Saints management.
"I've got a great picture of our performance director Nick Johnston and team manager Paul Shields using a Heineken Cup back drop to clear the field! It was brilliant. Both teams wanted the game on. Treviso really wanted the game played so they called in a couple of snow ploughs. There was mulled wine, there was lots of coffee and everybody pitched in. I helped clear the pitch and was also keeping people updated back home because Sky Italia said they'd broadcast the game an hour later.
"Because it had been quiet warm, the pitch was playable. As soon as you cleared the snow, the pitch was absolutely fine. Then we won the game as well. Everybody pitched in and it was a really fun trip. It was really memorable, and for all the right reasons."
Simon Thomas - Media Wales
"Personally, it's very exciting as it means I get to travel to places that I don't normally get to go to. We always look forward to the trips to France, those one off trips you don't see every season.
"Our travel plans really depend on the cheapest way of dong it! If it's a Saturday game, you'd tend to go on a Friday night. You don't tend to see a huge amount of the area but you savour the culture at the match itself. When I think back to some of the places I've been in France over the years like Dax and Brive, Biarritz and Castres, they are fantastic rugby locations. It's the same with Munster.
"I think Brive versus Pontypridd in 1997/98 stands out. I actually went to the second game in a play-off. Having had the 'Battle of Brive' they played again in a quarter-final play-off. You can imagine how hyped that game was. It was the only time I've ever been pelted with bread rolls in the press box. They weren't too impressed when Pontypridd went ahead at one stage in that game, but that was a fantastic experience.
"I also think any game out in Limerick at Thomond Park is special. I went to the redeveloped ground earlier this season and its' even better than before. It's kept the old atmosphere and it's a great place to go.
"It's also interesting to see the different styles of rugby. It's noticeable this season that rugby seems to have changed overnight.
"You just have to look at the quality of players involved. It's a massive tournament and, 16 years in, everyone you talk to says it gets better every year. For us Welsh journalists, the fact that the final is here in Cardiff gives an added interest to it."
Charlotte Morriarty - media manager at Newport Gwent Dragons
"Getting to play against the reigning champions Toulouse - like we did this year - is what you want to test yourself against. It's something different. The team get to do something different and try different things.
"We're really lucky at the Dragons. Rodney Parade is an old-style rugby ground and we've got some fantastic supporters. Everyone comes along to a European match. There's a sense of pride and a sense of anticipation and you don't have the same the pressure against a side like Toulouse that you'd have in the Magners League where you're expected to win your home games.
"The media that I normally deal with come to Rodney Parade week in, week out, but for a European game you get a lot more interest. The French media tend to come along for games involving sides like Toulouse, plus there's a lot more non rights holder TV who have to be accommodated. You're dealing with a different scene and a different set of media so it's pretty interesting."
David Hands - formerly of the Times and now freelance
"Over the years, you become used to all the domestic situations. You are used to going to the same grounds and you look forward to that but you look forward to it on a completely different scale when you get into Europe. There is still a sense of adventure about going to some of the games, particularly in France. You go to places we're not accustomed to going to and, even when you're as old as I am, you still enjoy finding out about new places.
"The rise of the provincial game in rugby has made the competition a huge magnet now. Every time you go anywhere near Munster, you have a great sense of expectation about what quality of rugby the home side will produce and, secondly, how the visitors, whoever they are, will react to what they find in Munster.
"One game that sticks in my mind is on from two or three years into the competition. Harlequins were playing Brive in Brive and I'd been contacted by the BBC to give them a half-time and full-time summary of the game. I had to do that in the huge stand in Brive in the midst of a packed ground where there were probably 8,000 screaming people on my side of the ground all making a hell of a noise. I had to make up answers to questions I couldn't hear!
"That's the sort of thing that adds to the difference of European Rugby. We had no idea about what happened in Brive. We didn't even know where it was and we had to discover it on a map. That's the sort of thing that stands out.
"Then there was going to Munster and watching Leicester win there when so many had tried to do the same and no one had succeeded in achieving it. It's not the big finals that stand out but the huge pool games that you get in this competition that you don't necessarily find recreated elsewhere.
"This tournament started as it meant to go on. It started at a level we didn't know it would reach. In the very first year you had a team as good as Toulouse and because we didn't really know how Toulouse played, they had already upped the bar significantly from what we had expected in our domestic game.
"It's like New Zealand who set the bar in the international game and drop below that bar so infrequently it's not true. I think that's what's happened in Europe. The bar was set high and, every now and again, it's raised but it's never dropped significantly below what you would expect of the competition."