The Heineken Cup rugby competition, the historic international club tournament featuring the best rugby clubs from the Northern Hemisphere. Read on to find out about the Heineken Cup winners, history, records and statistics.
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The Heineken Cup rugby tournament has been in place since 1995, when the home unions, England, France, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, decided to have a cross border club rugby championship with club teams from the Six Nations countries. As implied by the name, Heineken the Dutch beer company is the key sponsor of the Heineken Cup. Due to restrictions on alcohol sponsorship in France, the tournament is called the H Cup there. Heineken have been the sponsor since the competition’s inception in 1995.
Heineken Cup rugby is contested by 24 teams competing from six pools of four. Currently, there are six teams from England, which are selected from the Aviva Premiership and Anglo-Welsh Cup, France has six club teams from their Top 14 Championship, Ireland and Wales have three rugby teams each while Scotland and Italy have two rugby club teams. Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy’s club teams are all selected from the Celtic League.
England has six teams selected from the Aviva Premiership and Anglo-Welsh Cup.
France has six teams (selected from the in Top 14 Championship)
Ireland has three teams (selected from the Celtic League)
Wales has three teams (selected from the Celtic League)
Scotland has two teams (selected from the Celtic League)
Italy has two teams (selected from the Celtic League)
The Heineken Cup shares not only the cross-border club competition element with Super Rugby, but also the point’s structure. Teams receive four points for a win or two points for a drawn game. Teams who score four or more tries also receive a bonus point, as do teams who lose by seven points or less. Therefore a losing team can technically receive two points compared the winner’s four points. A team who draws a game but scores four tries could receive three points.
At the end of pool play, the team from each pool who has accumulated the most points will graduate to the finals. Across the combined six pools, the next two teams with the most points also contest the finals to take the seventh and eighth spots, with a total of eight teams contesting the quarter finals. The four teams with the most points will have home advantage. The top team plays team number eight, team two plays team seven, team three plays team six and team four plays team five. However, the Heineken Cup semi finals and final are neutral venues, selected by tournament organisers and usually rotated between the countries. The 2012 Heineken Cup final will be played Twickenham Stadium in London. Aviva stadium in Ireland will host the 2013 final. A key feature of the Heineken Cup is the travelling fan bases, a benefit of the geographic proximity and lack of travel restrictions between the participating countries.
The Heineken Cup is known for its relatively long schedule. It is played around the participating countries’ domestic club competition as well as the Six Nations.
There have been nine Heineken Cup winners out of the sixteen Heineken Cups so far. Toulouse has the record with four Heineken Cup tournament wins. They won their last title in the 2010 Heineken Cup final, defeating fellow France team Biarritz Olympique 21 points to 19 at the Stade de France in front of 78,962 people.
The Leicester Tigers, Munster, Leinster and London Wasps have each won the tournament twice. The Leicester Tigers won both of their titles in consecutive years, the only club to have done so. Since then they have contested the final twice, but have been unable to add to their two Heineken Cup wins.
Toulouse (France) have won four times (1995–96, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2009–10)
Leicester Tigers (England) have won twice (2000–01, 2001–02)
Munster (Ireland) have won twice (2005–06, 2007–08)
Leinster (Ireland) have won twice (2008–09, 2010–11)
London Wasps (England) have won twice (2003–04, 2006–07)
Northampton Saints (England) have won once (1999–2000)
Brive (France) have won once (1996–97)
Bath (England) have won once (1997–98)
Ulster (Ireland) have won once (1998–99)
Biarritz (France), Stade Français (France), Cardiff (Wales), Colomiers (France) and Perpignan (France) have all reached the Heineken Cup final, but never won.
Countries who have provided the most Heineken Cup winning clubs.
England clubs have provided the most Heineken Cup winners, with England-based clubs winning the tournament six times. Their last Heineken Cup winner was the London Wasps in 2006/2007. France and Ireland rugby teams have won the tournament five times. No team from Wales, Scotland or Italy have ever won the Heineken Cup. In fact, no team from those countries have ever made the Heineken Cup final, except for Wales club Cardiff in the inaugural tournament. The last six years have been a golden era for Irish clubs, winning four titles in six years.
Leinster won the 2010/2011 tournament, defeating Heineken Cup heavy weights Leicester and Toulouse in the quarter and semi finals. They then met Northampton Saints at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, going into half time losing 22 to 6. However, they came back with 27 unanswered points before finally winning 33 to 26. Man of the Match Jonathan Sexton scored 28 of those points, including two tries.
Here is a list of key Heineken Cup records and statistics held by individual rugby players in the Heineken Cup. All records are accurate as of November 2011.
France’s Vincent Clerc has scored 32 tries for Toulouse, giving him the top try record for the Heineken Cup. Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll is close behind with 30 tries, all for Leinster. Brian O’Driscoll will have to wait to catch Clerc, as O’Driscoll will miss the 2011-12 season with a shoulder injury. Travelling try scorer Dafydd James is third on the list, scoring 29 tries in a career playing for Pontypridd, Llanelli, Bridgend, Celtic Warriors, Harlequins, Scarlets and the Cardiff Blues.
Sébastien Carrat from Brive has the record for most tries in a season, scoring ten back in the 1996-97 tournament. Swansea ‘s Matthew Robinson scored nine in 2000-01 and Shane Horgan from Leinster dotted down eight times in the 2004-05 competition.
Ronan O’Gara is well ahead on the top point’s scorer record, with 1,196 points – all for Munster. This includes a record successful 428 kicks at goals. Wales stalwart Stephen Jones is next with 847 points in a career with Llanelli, Scarlets and Clermont Auvergne.
For total points in a season, Diego Domínguez stands high above with a massive 188 points for Stade Français in 2000-01. He also sits third on the all time point scoring table, with 645. Tim Stimpson scored 155 for the Leicester Tigers in that same season. Record point’s scorer Ronan O’Gara holds three of the top ten season point scorers’ spots, his top being the 1999-2000 season where he scored 131 points.
Munster has a monopoly on the record appearance table. Six of the top ten are from the Ireland club. John Hayes sites at the top with 99, O’Gara on 97 and halfback Peter Stringer on 90.
The 2009 semi-final between Ireland’s Leinster and Munster set a world record for the most attended club game in rugby history. The two met at the historic Croke Park in Ireland in front of 82,208 spectators.
In the 2009/2010 season, the average attendance for a Heineken Cup game was 13,678.