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Heineken Cup Starts Off In Ireland in Lansdowne Road

Heineken Cup Starts Off In Ireland in Lansdowne Road

The Leinster Lions will be back on familiar territory when they get the ninth Heineken Cup tournament underway in Ireland on Saturday, 6th of December when they take on Biarritz.

The Leinster Lions will be back on familiar territory when they get the ninth Heineken Cup tournament underway in Ireland on Saturday, 6th of December.

Their Pool 3 fixture against Biarritz Olympique will be a repeat of last season’s Heineken Cup quarter-final and will be re-played at the same venue – Lansdowne Road, where a record quarter-final crowd of more than 42,000 saw last season’s game.

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For the first time since the inaugural season in the Heineken Cup the Dubliners will be playing their Pool matches at the home of Irish rugby. The Lions launched their home European career eight years to the day of their first game in the 2003/2004 campaign when they beat Pontypridd 23-22 at Lansdowne Road on 6 December, 1995.

The Leinster side on that occasion was led by Chris Pim and featured current London Irish chief executive Conor O’Shea at full back, World Cup referee Alain Rolland at scrum half, Sunday Tribune columnist Neil Francis at lock and current Irish internationals Shane Byrne, Victor Costello and Eric Miller.

The coach of the Leinster side was Ciaran Callan and team manager was sitting Fianna Fail TD for Dublin North, Jim Glennon.

This season, the tournament will start in Wales with the recently formed Celtic Warriors having the honour of getting the Heineken Cup underway with their home game against Calvisano at the Brewery Field on Friday, 5th December. That game kicks-off at 7.15 pm and, 30 minutes later, Llanelli Scarlets will meet Northampton Saints in a repeat of the 2000 semi-final in the first of six games to be broadcast either live or as live by ERC’s new UK broadcast partners Sky Sports over the opening weekend.

The Anglo-Welsh battle at Stradey Park is likely to feature the Saints four English World Cup winning heroes, Ben Cohen, Matt Dawson, Steve Thompson and Paul Grayson, while the home side will feature the Scarlets’ nine Welsh World Cup stars.

It has been the proud boast of some of us at ERC that our tournaments are home to many of the world’s greatest players. But for the next four years, which will take in our 10th anniversary season next year, the two competitions will be home to the players from the world champions, said ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath.

England’s triumph at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia last Saturday means that 21 of their 31 squad members will be featuring in this season’s Heineken Cup. As if there wasn’t enough rivalry between the elite clubs from the six nations who comprise the Heineken Cup, the opportunity to battle against World Cup winners is bound to add extra spice.

The Heineken Cup, the biggest club prize in the world, offers players and spectators alike with the ultimate in challenges. Battle will commence on December 5th, continue in January and then reconvene in May for the knock-out stages.

The second day of competition in this season’s tournament will see teams from the remaining three nations enter the fray, with Munster returning to Bourgoin for the first time in five years. There is also a repeat of the 2001 Heineken Cup final in Paris where the reigning French champions Stade Francais host Leicester Tigers at Stade Jean Bouin.

Sunday will see Ulster make their first appearance with a trip to Wales to meet Gwent Dragons. Only one point separates the two teams at the top of the Celtic League.