Racing-Metro 92 and Toulon will make their Heineken Cup debuts in early October as the 56th and 57th teams to take part in European club rugby’s top tournament.
The Cardiff Blues’ 28-21 Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over Toulon in front of a tournament record crowd of 48,990 at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome means that the 24th and final place in the 16th season of the Heineken Cup will be filled by the Blues’ fellow Welsh region, the Scarlets.
The draw for the six Heineken Cup pools of four teams each will take place on Tuesday, June 8 with the six Tier 1 teams – Munster, Toulouse, Leinster, Leicester Tigers, Cardiff Blues and Biarritz Olympique – kept apart.
And while Racing-Metro 92 and Toulon will take their Heineken Cup bows in round 1 in the autumn, Toulouse will start their defence of a record fourth title by playing their 111th match.
Guy Noves’ team added the 2010 crown to the ones they won in 1996, 2003 and 2005 by defeating Biarritz Olympique 21-19 at the Stade de France last Saturday to bring the landmark 15th campaign to a record-breaking end.
The finals of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup tournaments were watched by 127,952 fans – beating the previous best combined mark set in the 2003/04 season by over 32,000 – with 1,081,430 fans going through the turnstiles for the 79 Heineken Cup matches.
Next season’s Heineken Cup final will take place over the weekend of May 21-22 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
2010/11 HEINEKEN CUP QUALIFIERS – BY NATION:
ENGLAND (6): Leicester Tigers, London Wasps, Northampton Saints, Bath, London Irish, Saracens
FRANCE: (7): Toulouse, Biarritz Olympique, Clermont Auvergne, Perpignan, Castres Olympique, Toulon, Racing-Metro 92
IRELAND (3): Munster, Leinster, Ulster
ITALY (2): Benetton Treviso, Aironi Rugby
SCOTLAND (2): Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh
WALES (4): Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons