European Rugby Champions Cup

European Rugby Champions Cup
Current season or competition:
2016–17 European Rugby Champions Cup
European Rugby Champions Cup Logo
Sport Rugby union
Inaugural season 1995–96 as Heineken Cup
2014–15 as Champions Cup
Chairman Simon Halliday
Number of teams 20
Nations  England
Ireland Ireland
Holders Saracens (2015–16)
Most titles Toulouse (4 titles)
Website Official website
Related competitions European Rugby Challenge Cup
Qualifying Competition

The European Rugby Champions Cup is an annual rugby union tournament organised by European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR). It is the top-tier competition for clubs whose countries' national teams compete in the Six Nations Championship. Clubs qualify for the Champions Cup via their final positions in their respective national/regional leagues (Premiership, Top 14, and Pro12); those who do not qualify are instead eligible to compete in the second-tier Challenge Cup.

Introduced in 2014, the competition replaced the Heineken Cup, which had run since 1995, following disagreements between its shareholders over the structure and governance of the competition.

Saracens are the current holders of the cup, having won their first cup by beating Racing 92 in the 2016 final. Toulouse have won the competition a record four times, the last of which was in 2010.[1]


Heineken Cup


The Heineken Cup logo used until 2013

The Heineken Cup was launched in the summer of 1995 on the initiative of the then Five Nations Committee to provide a new level of professional cross border competition.[2] Twelve sides representing Ireland, Wales, Italy, Romania and France competed in four pools of three with the group winners going directly into the semi-finals.[3] English and Scottish teams did not take part in the inaugural competition.[4] From an inauspicious beginning in Romania, where Toulouse defeated Farul Constanţa 54–10 in front of a small crowd, the competition gathered momentum and crowds grew. Toulouse went on to become the first European cup winners, eventually beating Cardiff in extra time in front of a crowd of 21,800 at Cardiff Arms Park.[3]

Clubs from England and Scotland joined the competition in 1996–97.[5] European rugby was further expanded with the advent of the European Challenge Cup for teams that did not qualify for the Heineken Cup. The Heineken Cup now had 20 teams divided into four pools of five.[6] Only Leicester and Brive reached the knock-out stages with 100 per cent records and ultimately made it to the final, Cardiff and Toulouse falling in the semi-finals. After 46 matches, Brive beat Leicester 28–9 in front of a crowd of 41,664 at Cardiff Arms Park, the match watched by an estimated television audience of 35 million in 86 countries.[6]

The season 1997–98 saw the introduction of a home and away format in the pool games.[7] The five pools of four teams, which guaranteed each team a minimum of six games, and the three quarter-final play-off matches all added up to a 70-match tournament. Brive reached the final again but were beaten late in the game by Bath with a penalty kick. Ironically, English clubs had decided to withdraw from the competition in a dispute over the way it was run.[4]

Without English clubs, the 1998–99 tournament revolved around France, Italy and the Celtic nations. Sixteen teams took part in four pools of four. French clubs filled the top positions in three of the groups and for the fourth consecutive year a French club, in the shape of Colomiers from the Toulouse suburbs, reached the final. Despite this it was to be Ulster's year as they beat Toulouse (twice) and reigning French champions Stade Français on their way to the final at Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Ulster then carried home the trophy after a 21–6 win over Colomiers in front of a capacity 49,000 crowd.[7]


English clubs returned in 1999–00. The pool stages were spread over three months to allow the competition to develop alongside the nations’ own domestic competitions, and the knockout stages were scheduled to take the tournament into the early spring. For the first time clubs from four different nations – England, Ireland, France and Wales – made it through to the semi-finals. Munster's defeat of Toulouse in Bordeaux ended France's record of having contested every final and Northampton Saints' victory over Llanelli made them the third English club to make it to the final. The competition was decided with a final between Munster and Northampton, with Northampton coming out on top by a single point to claim their first major honour.[5]

England supplied two of the 2000–01 semi-finalists – Leicester Tigers and Gloucester – with Munster and French champions Stade Français also reaching the last four. Both semi-finals were close, Munster going down by a point 16–15 to Stade Français in Lille and the Tigers beating Gloucester 19–15 at Vicarage Road, Watford. The final, at Parc des Princes, Paris, attracted a crowd of 44,000 and the result was in the balance right up until the final whistle, but Leicester walked off 34–30 winners.

Munster reached the 2001–02 final with quarter-final and semi-final victories on French soil against Stade Français and Castres. Leicester pipped Llanelli in the last four, after the Scarlets had halted Leicester's 11-match Heineken Cup winning streak in the pool stages. A record crowd saw Leicester become the first side to successfully defend their title.[2]

From 2002, the European Challenge Cup winner now automatically qualified for the Heineken Cup. Toulouse's victory over French rivals Perpignan in 2003 meant that they joined Leicester as the only teams to win the title twice.[2] Toulouse saw a 19-point half-time lead whittled away as the Catalans staged a dramatic comeback in a match in which the strong wind and showers played a major role, but Toulouse survived to win.

In 2003–04 the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) voted to create regions to play in the Celtic League and represent Wales in European competition. Henceforth, Wales entered regional sides rather than the club sides that had previously competed. English side London Wasps had earned their first final appearance by beating Munster 37–32 in a Dublin semi-final while Toulouse triumphed 19–11 in an all-French contest with Biarritz in a packed Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux. The 2004 final at Twickenham saw Wasps defeat defending champions Toulouse 27–20 at Twickenham to win the Heineken Cup for the first time. The match was widely hailed as one of the best finals. With extra time looming at 20–20, a late opportunist try by scrum half Rob Howley settled the contest.


Munster fans watch their team on a jumbo screen on the streets of Limerick. Munster won the 2005–06 Cup and were runners-up twice before.

The tenth Heineken Cup final saw the inaugural champions Toulouse battle with rising stars Stade Français when Murrayfield was the first Scottish venue to host the final.[8] Fabien Galthié's Paris side led until two minutes from the end of normal time before Frédéric Michalak levelled the contest for Toulouse with his first penalty strike. He repeated this in the initial stages of extra time and then sealed his side's success with a superb opportunist drop-goal. Toulouse became the first team to win three Heineken Cup titles.[8]

In 2006, Munster defeated Biarritz in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 23–19.[9] It was third time lucky for the Irish provincial side, who had previously been denied the ultimate prize twice by Northampton and Leicester.

London Wasps celebrate after winning the 2006–07 Heineken Cup

The 2006–07 Heineken Cup would be distributed to over 100 countries following Pitch International's securing of the rights.[10] That season was the first time in the history of the competition that two teams went unbeaten in pool play, with both Llanelli Scarlets and Biarritz doing so. Biarritz went into their final match at Northampton Saints with a chance to become the first team ever to score bonus-point wins in all their pool matches, but were only able to score two of the four tries needed. Leicester defeated Llanelli Scarlets to move into the final at Twickenham, with the possibility of winning a Treble of championships on the cards, having already won the EDF Energy Cup and the Guinness Premiership. However, Wasps won the final 25 points to 9 in front of a tournament record 81,076 fans.[11]

During competition there was uncertainty over the future of the tournament after the 2006–07 season as French clubs had announced that they would not take part because of fixture congestion following the Rugby World Cup and an ongoing dispute between English clubs and the RFU.[12][13] It was speculated that league two teams might compete the next season, the RFU saying "If this situation is not resolved, the RFU owes it to the sport to keep this competition going...We have spoken to our FDR clubs, and if they want to compete we will support them.".[14] A subsequent meeting led to the announcement that the tournament would be played in 2007–08, with clubs from all the six nations. On 20 May it was announced that both French and English top-tier teams would be competing[15]

In the 2008 final, Munster won the cup for their second time ever by beating Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Leinster won the title in 2009 in their first ever final after beating Munster in the semi-final in front of a then world record Rugby Union club match attendance in Croke Park. They beat the Leicester Tigers in the final at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. They also beat Harlequins 6–5 in the quarter finals at Twickenham Stoop, in the famous Bloodgate scandal.

In the 2010 final, Toulouse defeated Biarritz Olympique in the Stade de France to claim their fourth title, a Heineken Cup record.

The 16th Heineken Cup tournament in 2011 resulted in an Irish province lifting the title for the fourth time in six years as Leinster recorded their second triumph in the competition. They defeated former multiple Heineken Cup winners Leicester and Toulouse in the quarter and semi finals. At the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in front of 72,000 spectators,[16] Leinster fought back from a 22–6 half-time deficit in the final against Northampton Saints, scoring 27 unanswered points in 26 second-half minutes, winning 33–22 in one of the tournament's greatest comebacks. Jonathan Sexton won the man-of-the-match award, having scored 28 of Leinster's points total, which included two tries, three conversions, and four penalties.

Leinster successfully defended their crown in 2012 at Twickenham, eclipsing fellow Irish province and former champions Ulster 42–14 to establish the highest Heineken Cup final winning margin. The performance broke a number of Heineken Cup Final records.[17] Leinster became only the second team to win back-to-back titles, and the only team ever to win three championships in four years. In addition, the game had the highest attendance at a final (81,774), the highest number of tries (5) and points (42) scored by one team and the highest points difference (28).

The final edition of the tournament as constituted as the Heineken Cup was won for a second time by Toulon at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in May 2014.

Champions Cup


The tournament began on 17 October 2014, with Harlequins playing Castres Olympique in the first ever Champions Cup game. Toulon retained their title, beating Clermont 24–18 in a repeat of the 2013 Heineken Cup Final, thereby becoming the first club to win three European titles in a row.[18]



A total of 20 teams qualify for the competition, 4 fewer than used to qualify for the Heineken Cup, 19 teams qualify automatically based on position in their respective leagues:

20th team play-off

The final team each season qualifies through a play-off competition between the best placed unqualified teams.


Group stage

For the pool stage there are five pools of four teams. The teams are ranked based on domestic league performance the previous season, and arranged into four tiers of five teams. Teams are then drawn from the tiers into pools at random, with the restriction that no pool shall contain two teams from the same country or league, until the allocation of Tier 4, which contains the 6th English and French teams, the 6th and 7th Pro12 team and the winner of the play-off.[20]

Teams will play the other three teams in the pool twice, at home and away, and match points will be awarded depending on the result of each game, with teams receiving four points for a win, and two for a draw. Teams can also earn 1 try bonus point for scoring four or more tries, and 1 losing bonus point for losing a match by seven points or fewer.[21]

Following the completion of the pool stage, the five pool winners, and the three best pool runners-up qualify for the knock-out stage.[22]

Knock-out stage

The eight quarter-finalists are seeded – pool winners from 1–5, and runners-up from 6–8 – based on performance in their respective pool. The four pool winners with the best pool record receive home advantage for the quarter-finals against one of the lower-seeded teams. The quarter-final are unbracketed, and follow the standard 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 format, as found in the Heineken Cup.[21]

The winners of the quarter-finals will contest the two semi-finals, Up to and including the 2014–15 season, matches and home country advantage were determined by a draw by EPCR.

In 2015–16 EPCR decided to put a new procedure in place. In lieu of the draw that used to determine the semi-final pairing, EPCR announced that a fixed semi-final bracket would be set in advance, and that the home team would be designated based on "performances by clubs during the pool stages as well as the achievement of a winning a quarter-final match away from home". Semi-final matches must be played at a neutral ground in the designated home team's country.

Home country advantage will be awarded as follows:[21]

QF 1
QF 2
(Home v Away)
1 4 1 v 4
1 5 5 v 1
8 4 8 v 4
8 5 5 v 8

QF 3
QF 4
(Home v Away)
3 2 2 v 3
3 7 7 v 3
6 2 6 v 2
6 7 6 v 7

The winners of the semi-finals will contest the final, which will be held no later than the first weekend of May each season.[23]


dagger Match was won during extra time
Heineken Cup era
Season Country Winners Score Runners-up Country Venue Attendance
1995–96  France Toulouse 2118dagger Cardiff  Wales Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff 21,800
1996–97  France Brive 289 Leicester Tigers  England Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff 41,664
1997–98  England Bath 1918 Brive  France Parc Lescure, Bordeaux 36,500
1998–99 Ireland Ireland Ulster 216 Colomiers  France Lansdowne Road, Dublin 49,000
1999–00  England Northampton Saints 98 Munster Ireland Ireland Twickenham, London 68,441
2000–01  England Leicester Tigers 3430 Stade Français  France Parc des Princes, Paris 44,000
2001–02  England Leicester Tigers 159 Munster Ireland Ireland Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 74,600
2002–03  France Toulouse 2217 Perpignan  France Lansdowne Road, Dublin 28,600
2003–04  England London Wasps 2720 Toulouse  France Twickenham, London 73,057
2004–05  France Toulouse 1812dagger Stade Français  France Murrayfield, Edinburgh 51,326
2005–06 Ireland Ireland Munster 2319 Biarritz  France Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 74,534
2006–07  England London Wasps 259 Leicester Tigers  England Twickenham, London 81,076
2007–08 Ireland Ireland Munster 1613 Toulouse  France Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 74,500
2008–09 Ireland Ireland Leinster 1916 Leicester Tigers  England Murrayfield, Edinburgh 66,523
2009–10  France Toulouse 2119 Biarritz  France Stade de France, Saint-Denis 78,962
2010–11 Ireland Ireland Leinster 3322 Northampton Saints  England Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 72,456
2011–12 Ireland Ireland Leinster 4214 Ulster Ireland Ireland Twickenham, London 81,774
2012–13  France Toulon 1615 Clermont  France Aviva Stadium, Dublin 50,198
2013–14  France Toulon 236 Saracens  England Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 67,586
Champions Cup era
Season Country Winners Score Runners-up Country Venue Attendance
2014–15  France Toulon 24–18 Clermont  France Twickenham, London 56,622
2015–16  England Saracens 21–9 Racing 92  France Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon 58,017
2016–17 Murrayfield, Edinburgh

Wins by club

Club Won Runner-up Years won Years runner-up
France Toulouse 4 2 1995–96, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2009–10 2003–04, 2007–08
France Toulon 3 0 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15
Ireland Leinster 3 0 2008–09, 2010–11, 2011–12
England Leicester Tigers 2 3 2000–01, 2001–02 1996–97, 2006–07, 2008–09
Ireland Munster 2 2 2005–06, 2007–08 1999–00, 2001–02
England London Wasps 2 0 2003–04, 2006–07
France Brive 1 1 1996–97 1997–98
England Northampton Saints 1 1 1999–00 2010–11
Ireland Ulster 1 1 1998–99 2011–12
England Saracens 1 1 2015–16 2013–14
England Bath 1 0 1997–98
France Biarritz 0 2 2005–06, 2009–10
France Clermont 0 2 2012–13, 2014–15
France Stade Français 0 2 2000–01, 2004–05
Wales Cardiff 0 1 1995–96
France Colomiers 0 1 1998–99
France Perpignan 0 1 2002–03
France Racing 92 0 1 2015–16

Wins by nation

Nation Winners Runners-up
France France 8 12
England England 7 5
Ireland Ireland 6 3
Wales Wales 0 1


Disagreements over structure & governance

English and French rugby union clubs had long held concerns over the format and structure of the Heineken Cup organised by European Rugby Cup (ERC), predominantly in relation to the distribution of funds and an imbalance in the qualification process.[24] Some proposals had been made that, in future, rather than Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy each sending their top-placed teams in the Pro12 to the Heineken Cup, the top teams from the league as a whole should be sent, regardless of nationality. This founding principle was eventually conceded however, when it was agreed that the top-placed teams from the four should participate in the new European competition.[25]

In June 2012, following that year's final, Premiership Rugby and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, on behalf of the English and French clubs respectively, gave ERC two years' notice of withdrawing from the Heineken Cup and also the second-tier Challenge Cup competitions from the start of the 2014–15 season.[26] Soon after, in September, Premiership Rugby announced a new four-year TV deal worth £152m with BT Sport including rights for English clubs’ European games - which had previously been the sole responsibility of ERC. ERC responded with claims that Premiership Rugby did not have the rights to a European tournament and announced a four-year deal with Sky Sports. The actions of Premiership Rugby were said to have "thrown northern hemisphere rugby into disarray".[27]

Subsequently, in September 2013, the English and French clubs announced their intention to organise their own tournament, to be named the Rugby Champions Cup, from 2014–15 season onwards, and invited other European clubs, provinces, and regions to join them. The IRB stepped into the debate at the same time to announce its opposition to the creation of a breakaway tournament.[28] In October 2013, Regional Rugby Wales, on behalf of the four Welsh regions, confirmed its full support for the proposed new Rugby Champions Cup.[29] Negotiations for both a new Heineken Cup and Rugby Champions Cup were then ongoing.[30]

On 10 April 2014, following almost two years of negotiations, a statement was released under the aegis of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) announcing that the nine stakeholders to the new competition, the six unions, and three umbrella club organisations (Premiership Rugby, Ligue Nationale de Rugby, and Regional Rugby Wales), had signed Heads of Agreement for the formation of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new, third tournament, called the Qualifying Competition.[31] On the same day, BT and Sky announced an agreement that divided coverage of the new European competitions. Both will split the pool matches, quarter-finals, and semi-finals equally, and both will broadcast the final. BT will get first choice of English Premiership club matches in the Champions Cup, with Sky receiving the same privilege for the Challenge Cup.[32]

Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby were described as having employed "bully-boy tactics" by The Irish Times.[33]


Shortly after the establishment of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to administer the new competition from a new base in Neuchatel, Switzerland, the running of the inaugural 2014–15 tournament was subcontracted to the organisation it had been meant to replace, Dublin-based European Rugby Cup (ERC). This was despite the latter having been described by chairman of Premiership Rugby, Quentin Smith, as "no longer fit for purpose". This was described as "something of an about-turn" by The Daily Telegraph.[34]

EPCR were still looking to hire a permanent chairman and director-general more than a year after their establishment.[35]

2015 final

The inaugural Champions Cup final was brought forward by three weeks due to a French desire not to interrupt their domestic playoffs. This was said to have "devalued" and "diminished the status of the occasion as the pinnacle of European club rugby".[33][35]

While the 2015 Heineken Cup final had been due to take place at the San Siro in Milan, the first European final to take place in Italy, the new organisers decided to move it to Twickenham Stadium in London in order to "guarantee the best possible financial return to clubs".[35] However, with less than two weeks to go before the final took place, it was reported that fewer than half of the stadium's 82,000 seats had been sold, with just 8,000 French supporters travelling to London to watch Toulon face Clermont.[36] The organisers subsequently made "free" tickets available on Ticketmaster (with only a £2 booking fee applicable), before admitting to this being a mistake – the offer supposed to have been linked to a purchase of a Premiership final ticket. This was described as an "embarrassing fiasco" by the Western Mail in Wales.[35][37] 56,622 fans subsequently attended the game. EPCR were said to have "failed on many levels" by The Irish Times, with the attendance figure for the final "a fitting postscript to the hastily-convened decider to what was, after all the brinkmanship, a hastily-convened tournament".[33]

Sponsorship & TV deal

During the creation of the Champions Cup, former organisers ERC had been criticised for "failing to maximise the commercial potential" of the Heineken Cup. New organisers EPCR pledged to move from a single title sponsor format to a Champions League-style partner system, with 2–3 primary partners projected for the inaugural tournament and 5 being the ultimate target. However, only Heineken agreed to sign up for the 2014–15 season, at a much reduced price from that which they had been paying previously.[33][35]

EPCR was subsequently criticised for forcing fans to subscribe to two pay-TV companies, Sky Sports and BT Sport, if they wanted to follow their teams throughout the Champions Cup. Coverage was split between the two in order to raise revenues, but this was said to have "diluted the focus and reduced the buzz around the event".[35]

2015 postponed games

Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, all round-one games due to take place in France that weekend were called off, along with the round-two fixture between Stade Français and Munster.[38][39] Subsequently, Bath's owner Bruce Craig stated that his team's postponed match against reigning champions Toulon would never take place, blaming fixture congestion due to that year's Rugby World Cup, with his head coach Mike Ford suggesting that the points for the game should be shared. This was criticised as being "convenient", "opportunistic", "distasteful" and "badly out of place" given that Toulon were heavy favourites for the game and Bath "would have almost certainly lost".[40][41][42][43]

Sponsorship and suppliers


Principal Partners

Heineken, who had sponsored the Heineken Cup since 1995, signed on as the first partner for the Champions Cup in 2014, and were credited as the Founding Partner of European Rugby
Announced as the second principal partner at the 2015–16 tournament launch, signing on for three seasons[44]

Secondary Sponsors


Following their appointment as an Official Supplier, Tissot began sponsoring the Match Officials kit.

Player records

Note that in the case of career statistics, only those clubs for which each player appeared in European Cup fixtures (i.e. Heineken Cup or Champions Cup) are listed.

All-time records

Top try scorers

Rank Player[45] Club(s) Tries
1 Vincent Clerc Toulouse 36
2 Brian O'Driscoll Leinster 33
3 Dafydd James Pontypridd, Llanelli, Bridgend, Celtic Warriors, Harlequins, Scarlets 29
4 Shane Horgan Leinster 27
5 Gordon D'Arcy Leinster 26
6 Geordan Murphy Leicester Tigers 25
Napolioni Nalaga ASM Clermont
Chris Ashton Northampton Saints, Saracens
Tommy Bowe Ulster, Ospreys
10 Ben Cohen Northampton Saints, Brive, Sale Sharks 24
Michel Marfaing Toulouse

Top point scorers

Rank Player[46] Club(s) Points
1 Ronan O'Gara Munster 1365
2 Stephen Jones Llanelli, Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets 869
3 Dimitri Yachvili Biarritz 661
4 Diego Domínguez Milan, Stade Français 645
5 David Humphreys Ulster 564
6 Neil Jenkins Pontypridd, Cardiff, Celtic Warriors 502
7 David Skrela Colomiers, Stade Français, Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne 500
8 Dan Parks Glasgow Warriors, Cardiff Blues, Connacht 479
9 Felipe Contepomi Bristol, Leinster, Toulon 444
10 Jean-Baptiste Élissalde Toulouse 441

Most goals (penalties and conversions)

Rank Player[47] Club(s) Goals
1 Ronan O'Gara Munster 488
2 Stephen Jones Llanelli, Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets 313
3 Dimitri Yachvili Biarritz 235
4 Diego Domínguez Milan, Stade Français 231
5 Neil Jenkins Pontypridd, Cardiff, Celtic Warriors 176
6 Jean-Baptiste Élissalde Toulouse 165
7 David Skrela Colomiers, Stade Français, Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne 164
8 David Humphreys Ulster 161
9 Dan Parks Glasgow Warriors, Cardiff Blues, Connacht 156
10 Jonathan Sexton Leinster, Racing Métro 92 149


Rank Player[48] Club(s) Games
1 Ronan O'Gara Munster 110
2 John Hayes Munster 101
3 Gordon D'Arcy Leinster 100
4 Donncha O'Callaghan Munster 96
5 Peter Stringer Munster, Saracens 94
6 Leo Cullen Leinster, Leicester Tigers 92
7 Shane Horgan Leinster 87
Brian O'Driscoll Leinster
Clément Poitrenaud Toulouse
10 Anthony Foley Munster 86
David Wallace[49] Munster

Single season records


Rank Player Club Season Tries
1 Chris Ashton Saracens 2013–14[50] 11
2 Sébastien Carrat Brive 1996–97[51] 10
3 Matthew Robinson Swansea 2000–01[52] 9
4 Shane Horgan Leinster 2004–05[53] 8
Timoci Matanavou Toulouse 2011–12[54]
Napolioni Nalaga Clermont 2012–13[55]
7 Tommy Bowe Ospreys 2009–10[56] 7
Vincent Clerc Toulouse 2002–03[57]
Franck Comba Stade Français 2000–01[52]
Garan Evans Llanelli 2002–03[57]
Kenny Logan London Wasps 1997–98[58]
Thomas Lombard Stade Français 1998–99[59]
Michel Marfaing Toulouse 1998–99[59]
Ugo Mola Castres 2001–02[60]
Émile Ntamack Toulouse 1998–99[59]
Clément Poitrenaud Toulouse 2006–07[61]
Paul Sackey London Wasps 2006–07[61]


Rank Player Club Season Points
1 Diego Domínguez Stade Français 2000–01[62] 188
2 Tim Stimpson Leicester Tigers 2000–01[62] 152
3 Simon Mason Ulster 1998–99[63] 144
4 Jonathan Sexton Leinster 2010–11[64] 138
5 Lee Jarvis Cardiff 1997–98[65] 134
6 Ronan O'Gara Munster 1999–00[66] 131
7 Jonathan Callard Bath 1997–98[65] 129
Felipe Contepomi Leinster 2005–06[67]
Ronan O'Gara Munster 2001–02[68]
10 Ronan O'Gara Munster 2000–01[62] 127

European Player of the Year

The European Player of the Year award was introduced by ERC in 2010. Ronan O'Gara received the inaugural award, being recognised as the best player over the first 15 years of ERC tournaments.[69] Following the Creation of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the new organisers EPCR continued to award a Player of the Year accolade, with the first going to Nick Abendanon of England.


The European Rugby Champions Cup trophy was unveiled in October 2014.[70]

Crafted by Thomas Lyte,[71] the trophy is made of mixed metals including sterling silver and 18ct gold plating. The cup is designed around the idea of the star representing European rugby, including the previous 19 seasons of European rugby, as the Heineken Cup.

The 13.5 kg, five-handled trophy, creates a star shape when viewed from the top, while when viewed from the side, the top of the trophy has a coronet effect, which designers said was to reflect the crowning of the Kings of Europe. The base of the trophy contains the crests of the 10 clubs that won the Heineken Cup, to further reinforce the link between the old and new European competitions[72]

Media coverage


This lists the average attendances for each season's European Cup competition, as well as the total attendance and highest attendance for that season. The final is typically the most-attended match, as it is generally held in a larger stadium than any club's home venue.

The highest attended match of the 2002–03 competition was a quarterfinal between Leinster and Biarritz before 46,000 fans at Landsdowne Road in Dublin.

The 2009 final held at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh was only the third most-attended match that season. The most-attended match was a semi-final between Irish rivals Leinster and Munster played in Croke Park in Dublin. The attendance of 82,208 set what was then a world record for a club match in the sport's history.[78] Second on that season's list was a pool match between Stade Français and Harlequins that drew 76,569 to Stade de France in Paris (a venue that Stade Français has used for select home matches since 2005).

While the 2010–11 tournament's highest attended match was unsurprisingly the final, the second-highest attended match was notable in that it was held in Spain. Perpignan hosted Toulon in a quarterfinal before a sellout crowd of 55,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, Spain.

Season Total Average Highest
1995–96 97,535 6,502 21,800
1996–97 317,987 6,765 41,664
1997–98 462,958 6,613 36,500
1998–99 322,340 5,860 49,000
1999–00 626,065 7,924 68,441
2000–01 646,834 8,187 44,000
2001–02 656,382 8,308 74,600
2002–03 704,782 8,921 46,000
2003–04 817,833 10,352 73,057
2004–05 918,039 11,620 51,326
2005–06 964,863 12,370 74,534
2006–07 914,048 11,570 81,076
2007–08 942,373 11,928 74,417
2008–09 1,177,064 14,900 82,208
2009–10 1,080,598 13,678 78,962
2010–11 1,139,427 14,423 72,456
2011–12 1,172,127 14,837 81,774
2012–13 1,063,218 13,458 50,148
2013–14 1,127,926 14,278 67,578
2014–15 985,717 14,712 56,622

See also


  1. "European Rugby Champions Cup (EPCR)".
  2. 1 2 3 "European Rugby Cup : History". ERC. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  3. 1 2 "European Rugby Cup : Heineken Cup History 1995/96". ERC. Archived from the original on 15 March 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  4. 1 2 Rees, Paul (30 March 2006). "Big boys plan for more lucrative Heineken Cup". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  5. 1 2 "A history of the Heineken Cup". Nobok. Retrieved 1 April 2007.
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