Cardiff Blues skipper Paul Tito has admitted that last year's agonizing defeat at the semi-final stage of the Heineken Cup has left his side with a 'burning desire' to finish as tournament winners this time around.
Having ended the pool stages with a 100-per-cent record last season, the Blues went on to beat European giants Toulouse in the quarter-finals before facing double Heineken Cup winners Leicester Tigers in the last four.
Tito's men fought back from a 14-point deficit with just seven minutes remaining to force extra time and then an historic 'penalty shootout' in front of a crowd of more than 44,000 at the Millennium Stadium.
But their dreams of becoming the first-ever Welsh Heineken Cup winners ended in heartbreaking circumstances as Tom James and Martyn Williams missed crucial spot kicks to send Leicester to Murrayfield.
Unsurprisingly, the pain of that defeat still lingers on.
"It's still burning inside us," says Tito, who joined the Blues from the Hurricanes in 2007.
"We came so close yet were so far.
"It's a new season now and we've got a big game against Harlequins on Saturday. But it definitely has left a burning desire in everyone in our squad."
With the European Rugby Cup rules having now been altered to ensure that only three backline players would be involved in any potential kick-off this season, Tito admits he and his fellow forwards can sleep a touch easier in the lead up to the continent's greatest club competition.
Add that weight off his shoulders to the prospect of playing top-quality rugby against Sale Sharks, Toulouse and Quins in front of healthy crowds at the new Cardiff City Stadium over the coming months and Tito has plenty to look forward to.
"It'll be nice to see backs kicking the ball over rather than some forwards," added the Kiwi second row.
"Every coach that said a forward should never kick a ball, maybe they would have been thinking differently last year.
"We're definitely looking for some big crowds. The Heineken Cup is a great competition and I'm sure we'll get some great crowds turn up in Cardiff, especially with three quality sides coming to our new stadium."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.