European club rugby returns this weekend with fixtures that are crucial to the qualification hopes of clubs in both the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup. Here is a look at the first ever European Cup match, and a weekend preview.
This short piece celebrates 20-years of European professional club rugby, as it looks back at the very first Heineken Cup match that took place this week way back in 1995, in Romania.
This coming weekend however, the leading clubs in three of the five Champions Cup pools will battle it out, with RC Toulon and ASM Clermont Auvergne – currently first and second in the Top 14 – as well as PRO12 table-toppers, Munster, all involved in key match-ups.
Leicester Tigers, who will break the one million fans barrier for European matches at Welford Road, host reigning champions, Toulon, in Pool 3 on Sunday with the French heavyweights aiming for a 10th successive victory in Europe’s top flight. The clubs have met once before in Europe with Toulon emerging 21-15 winners in the 2013 quarter-final at Stade Mayol.
The Pool 1 clash of Munster and Clermont on Saturday will stir memories of previous big European games between the clubs, notably the 2013 semi-final in Montpellier when Clermont came through 16-10. A win for Munster at their Thomond Park citadel would bring up a 100th win in European competition (including one in the Challenge Cup) for the club.
Toulouse are also on the cusp of a piece of history as a victory over Pool 4 leaders, Glasgow Warriors, at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday would mean a 100th win in Europe’s top tier. In-form Glasgow will have other ideas and will be looking for a reprise of 2009 when they pulled off a rare success on French soil with a 33-26 win against the four-time tournament champions.
Two more unbeaten clubs go head-to-head in Round 3 with the Twickenham Stoop a sell-out for the visit of Leinster Rugby who are second to Harlequins in Pool 2 only on points difference.
TV Coverage this weekend:
All 20 Champions Cup games will be broadcast live either on BT Sport or Sky Sports with extensive coverage in France. The action will also be televised in the USA on ESPN, in Asia on Setanta, in Australia on beIN Sports, in South Africa on Supersport and in the Pacific Islands on Digicel.
Credit: European Rugby Champions Cup/Total Rugby