ERC (European Rugby Cup) have made some rule changes for the upcoming Heineken Cup, including an increase in squad sizes and a new ruling for abandoned matches.
SQUAD SIZES AND ADDITIONAL PLAYER:
The number of players each team can register for the Heineken Cup's pool stages has risen to 38 this season. Of that number, at least 10 must be front row players.
A new innovation is the ability for clubs to include an "additional player" to their squads to help ease injury or selection worries during the pool stages.
This additional player must be properly registered with the club and must replace one of their existing players, who will then be de-registered. The de-registered player may return to replace the additional player.
There has also been a change to the rules regarding abandoned matches. For games abandoned after 60 minutes of play (20 minutes into the second half) the result will stand.
Games abandoned before 60 minutes should be replayed or where both clubs agree and subject to ERC Board approval the result may stand.
ERC's broadcast partners will this season broadcast more Heineken Cup action than ever. Three quarters of the 24 games in the opening two rounds will be shown live or delayed live, while 16 of the 24 matches in Rounds 3 and 4 will be shown live.
France Televisions, who have signed a four-year extension as broadcast partners to the Heineken Cup, will this season show two live matches each weekend on France Televisions' main terrestrial platform, FR2, and extra games on FR4. A sublicense agreement with Canal Groupe will also see games on Canal + and Sport +.
There will also be an increase in the output from Sky Sports, who from this season will also have rights in the Republic of Ireland as well as the UK. They will be screening at least 22 matches live in the opening four rounds and also showing four more delayed live. RTE will broadcast games involving Leinster and Munster delayed live as well as other highlights. S4C will continue to have rights in Wales to show highlights of Heineken Cup action.
Every game played by the three Irish provinces, the reigning champions Munster, Leinster and Ulster, will be available live on Sky Sports. In addition, games involving Munster and Leinster will be shown delayed live on RTE.
NEW COMMERCIAL PARTNERS:
ERC is delighted welcome three new Premium Partners for the 2006/07 season.
EDF Energy and FedEx Express will become Premium Partners to both the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup, while Alice will be a Premium Partner to the Heineken Cup.
...The 2006/07 Heineken Cup final will be hosted at Twickenham...
The 24 Heineken Cup clubs attracted record attendances of 659,804 for the pool stages of last season's tournament. The total attendance figure for the tournament of 964,653 for the 79 matches was highest in the tournament's history.
Munster will be aiming to become only the third club in the history of the Heineken Cup to host more than 400,000 fans at home matches this season. Leicester Tigers lead the way with 458,264 fans at Welford Road and the Walkers Stadium and Toulouse have attracted 454,627 to Stade Ernest Wallon and Le Stadium.
Munster, who meet Bourgoin, Cardiff Blues and Leicester Tigers at Thomond Park this season, have attracted 374,685 fans to their 34 home games to date (pool matches and quarter-finals only) at an average of just over 11,000.
Home gates for the three Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup broke through the 1 million mark last season and Leinster (337,091) could also reach 400,000 this season and Ulster (292,675) will go through 300,000 in their first home game.
16,000 TICKETS SNAPPED UP FOR LONDON '07:
Over 16,000 tickets have already been sold for the London '07 Heineken Cup final, at the Twickenham Stadium, London, to be played on Sunday, May 20, 2007.
With Twickenham's capacity increasing this season to 82,000, a sell-out crowd for the 2007 Heineken Cup final at the home of English rugby would break the Heineken Cup final record of 74,600 set at the Millennium Stadium in 2002. Last season's final between Biarritz Olympique and Munster also attracted a capacity crowd to the Millennium Stadium of 74,563.
This will be the Heineken Cup final's third visit to Twickenham. Northampton Saints defeated Munster before a crowd of 68,441 in 2000 and London Wasps beat Toulouse 27-20 in front of 73,057 fans in 2004.
Tickets for the London '07 Heineken Cup final are on sale through