Important Diary Markers
Tuesday, 3 February: Heineken Cup Semi-Final Draw
The draw for the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, to be played on the weekend of 24/25 April, will be made in Dublin on Tuesday, 3 February.
The semi-final draw for the Heineken Cup is taking place in advance of the quarter-finals because there are only two weeks between the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, and therefore to assist in operational matters such as semi-final venues and clubs operational needs, the draw is taking place at this stage.
Representatives from the 8 teams who this weekend successfully qualify for the quarter-finals, being played on the weekend of 9/10/11 April will be present.
You will be informed of the time of the draw, and full list of attendees, when confirmed.
Wednesday 4 February: Heineken Cup 2004/2005 Tournament
The ERC Board will meet in Dublin on Wednesday, 4 February to start the process of addressing the make-up of the 2004/2005 Heineken Cup Tournament
Issued by Diarmaid Murphy, ERC PR Manager
Phone: 00353 1 676 9286; Mobile: 00353 876 942 022
All ERC press releases and statements are available on the official ERC website: WWW.ERCRUGBY.COM
HEINEKEN CUP LATEST...HEINEKEN CUP LATEST...
HEINEKEN CUP 2003 / 2004 QUARTER-FINALS QUALIFICATION
It is Heineken Cup quarter-finals qualification crunch time - and here is how the last eight will qualify for the prestigious matches to be played on the weekend of 9 / 10 / 11 April:
POOL MATCHES: Four points for a win, two points for a draw, one point for a bonus point (match points). A bonus point will be earned by a team scoring four or more tries and/or by a team losing be seven or less points. The six Pool winners and two best placed runners-up, i.e. out of the six teams that finish second in their respective Pools will qualify for the Quarter-Finals. The Pool winners and best-placed runners-up will be decided by the following criteria:
(i) the Pool winner will be the Club with the highest number of match points earned in each Pool. The runners up will be the two Clubs from all six Pools with the next highest number of points. The Pool winners will be ranked 1-6 in terms of the number of match points earned. The runners-ups will be ranked 7 and 8, also by reference to the number of match points earned
(ii) if two or more Clubs are equal on points and the Clubs are in the same Pool, then qualification / ranking will be based on the matches played between the Clubs concerned
(a) the Club which has earned the most number of match points from the matches between those clubs (four points for a win, two points for a draw and bonus points)
(b) the Club which has scored the most tries in the matches between those clubs
(c) the Club with the best points difference from the matches between those clubs
(iii) if still unresolved, or the teams have not played each other previously in the Pool stage, qualification/ranking will be based on
(a) the number of tries scored in all Pool matches
(b) aggregate points difference from all Pool matches
(c) the Club with the fewest number of players shown a red card and/or suspended in all Pool matches
(d) toss of a coin
Teams ranked 1-4 will have home advantage.
Team 1 v Team 8
Team 2 v Team 7
Team 3 v Team 6
Team 4 v Team 5
ERC ELITE AWARDS
There could be two new additions to the winners of ERC Elite Awards this weekend.
Cardiff Blues will play their 50th match in the tournament when they host Sale Sharks at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday afternoon - the seventh team to reach the half century milestone.
And Leinster Lions No 8 Victor Costello will win his 50th cap if he plays for the Pool 3 leaders in their make-or-break quarter-final qualifying showdown in France against Biarritz Olympique on Saturday.
ERC elite awards
50 tournament matches - Toulouse (59), Munster (58), Llanelli Scarlets (53), Leicester Tigers (51), Leinster Lions (51), Ulster (50)
coming up ... Cardiff Blues (49)
50 tournament caps - Anthony Foley (Munster - 57), Chris Wyatt (Llanelli Scarlets - 51), Robin McBryde (Llanelli Scarlets - 51)
coming up ... Victor Costello (Leinster Lions - 49)
500 tournament points - Diego Dominguez (Milan/Stade Francais - 612), Ronan O'Gara (Munster - 576), Stephen Jones (Llanelli/Llanelli Scarlets - 532), Neil Jenkins (Pontypridd/Cardiff/Celtic Warriors - 502)
25 tournament tries - No award winner
... Michel Marfaing (Retired - 24, Toulouse), Emile Ntamack (Toulouse - 21), Dafydd James (Pontypridd/Llanelli/Bridgend/Celtic Warriors - 20)
... AND ANOTHER RECORD
Leinster Lions made it a hat-trick of Heineken Cup tournament records when they attracted a bumper crowd of 23,463 to Lansdowne Road for their 20-17 Pool 3 victory over Cardiff Blues last Friday.
They had already claimed the tournament records for attendances at a Heineken Cup quarter-final (42,500 v Biarritz Olympique, Lansdowne Road, 12/04/03) and Heineken Cup semi-final (32,000 v Perpignan, Lansdowne Road, 27/04/03).
THE HEINEKEN CUP - WHAT THEY ARE SAYING . . .
ALAN WATKINS (The Independent 27/01/04): 'This competition is, by common consent, a great success. It ranks with the Rugby World Cup itself as the chief beneficial development in the modern game.'
THOMAS CASTAIGNEDE (the Guardian, 26/01/04): 'The divorce lawyers will have to look out for an influx of rugby fans next Monday. European rugby widows needn't expect much domestic help from their husbands and boyfriends next weekend; the final round of the Heineken Cup Pool matches offers enough suspense to keep fans glued to their televisions. The main change that has sparked all this is the introduction of bonus points ... for once, it seems, the powers that be have made a decision before having a few beers ... this has been a European Cup packed with surprises.'
PAUL ACKFORD (The Sunday Telegraph, 25/01/04, The Dragons v Leicester Tigers): 'A blistering game. Brim full of passion and in doubt right to the end. And all this in the tightest Pool of the tournament where no side had forced an away victory until last night. Blissful. This Heineken Cup might be a nightmare to follow in terms of who is doing what with the matches spread over the weekend but the games themselves have been riveting.'
DAVID HANDS (The Times, 26/01/04): 'Keep your money in your pocket as far as the qualifiers for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals are concerned.'
ROB KITSON (The Guardian, 27/01/04): 'It is in England's interests to have as many challengers as possible in the last eight of European club rugby's elite tournament.'
CHRIS HEWETT (The Independent, 28/01/04): 'Rugby officials the world over spend most of their working week trying to make the sums add up, and the administrators of the Heineken Cup, the jewel in the crown of the Northern Hemisphere game, are no different. Next week the board of the ERC will address the burning arithmetical issue of the moment: the fact that they have only 23 teams for next season's 24-team tournament.'
NICK MALLET (Stade Franà§ais coach on club website): 'The Heineken Cup is fantastic.'
TREVOR BRENNAN (Toulouse forward on club website): 'In Toulouse, like in all the other French clubs, everybody realises that the Heineken Cup is the greatest competition that exists. Defending the European title won last season was clearly targeted by the players as the priority of the new season.'
NEW HEINEKEN CUP HIGHS
Rugby fans are passing through the turnstiles in greater numbers than ever before as Heineken Cup attendances reach record levels for the Pool stages.
To date, 473,595 fans have attended the first five rounds of this season's competition which is up 65,555 (16%) on last season. Average attendances are up over 1,000 per match from 6,801 to the present figure of 7,892.
Numbers have climbed on successive weekends for the first three rounds peaking at a record 106,406 in round three. This broke the 100,000 barrier for the first time surpassing the previous high of 96,007 achieved in round six of the 2001 season.
This record was followed by an impressive total of 99,918 just two weeks later in round five. Last season's best round attendance of 86,051 has already been topped four times and eight of the twenty-four clubs are averaging over 10,000 for their home games.
The record attendance for an individual pool match has also fallen this season. Leinster Lions' final home match at Lansdowne Road against the Cardiff Blues attracted 23,463 beating the previous best of 22,000 set by Toulouse for their round six home match against Bath in 2000.
The line up for this weekend's matches, including such clashes as Toulouse v Edinburgh Rugby, Perpignan v London Wasps, Munster v Bourgoin, Northampton Saints v Llanelli Scarlets and Leicester Tigers v Stade Franà§ais Paris should ensure huge crowds.
Attendance projections suggest that the Round 3 record figure of 106,463 is under threat and should, in fact, be beaten. If this is the case the 2001 cumulative Pool record of 524,624 will be smashed by more than 50,000.