The Heineken Cup is back and I can't wait for the action to kick off this weekend with four mouth watering quarter finals. Like a sleeping giant awaking from a winter break, we can be assured that Europe's premier club competition will deliver rugby of the highest order packed with pace, power, tempo, grunt, grind - and undoubtedly a spicy sprinkling of flash and dash for good measure too.This competition goes from strength to strength year after year, with players and supporters managing to lift the spirits with every stunning instalment. Just when you think the competition can't get any better, it never ceases to amaze with yet more thrilling games of rugby. Everywhere you go, be it the shadow of the South Wales valleys, the heart of English rugby lands, far flung corners of France or Italy or dank, cold days in the Irish Provinces or Scottish Highlands, the colour, passion, pride and tribal support are always second to none, and we can expect more of the same this weekend. Hugely knowledgeable crowds of record numbers - young, old, boys and girls alike - will cram into stadiums for four matches that abound with plots and sub-plots, dreams hoping to be made, nightmares waiting to be inflicted. Players that have displayed their talents in the 6 Nations will now run out in club colours but the intensity and power of the international game will still be hugely apparent.This year's Heineken Cup has not disappointed compared to previous editions of the tournament - and the possible headlines from this weekend makes the mouth water. Can London Irish reach their first ever semi final and can the Cardiff Blues travel to South West France and overturn the mighty Toulouse in their own backyard? Will the two early season pace setters Saracens and London Irish re-discover the form that made them top seeds and upset the form book in the process against the irrepressible Ospreys and the dogged Perpignan respectively ? And with Gloucester and Munster meeting in a titanic clash at Kingsholm which could easily have been worthy of this year's final, there promises to be no shortage of wonderful action to enjoy.
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.