Heineken Cup


Heineken Cup

Infobox sports league
current_season=2008-09 Heineken Cup
logo=Heineken cup.pngpixels=140px
caption=Competition logo
sport=Rugby union
founded=1995
teams=24
country=ENG FRA flag|Ireland|rugby ITA SCO WAL ROM (1995-1996)
champion= flagicon|IRE|rugby Munster
The European Rugby Cup (known as the Heineken Cup because of the tournament's sponsorship by Heineken) is an annual rugby union competition involving leading club, regional and provincial teams from six International Rugby Board (IRB) nations in Europe: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Romania competed in the first year of the competition only. The competition is organised by the European Rugby Cup, who are also responsible for the secondary championship, the European Challenge Cup. It is one of the most prestigious trophies in the sport. The tournament was launched in the European summer of 1995 on the initiative of the then Five Nations committee to provide a new level of professional cross-border competition. It is sponsored by Dutch brewing company Heineken International (it is known as H-Cup in France because of alcohol advertising restrictions).

Each European nation has a different qualifying system, though in total, 24 teams contest the pool stages in six pools of four. According to performances, the number of clubs from each nation changes. The tournament is held from October to May, with various stages scheduled around domestic club competitions.

The 2007-08 tournament was won by Ireland's Munster, who beat Toulouse of France 16–13 in the final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Toulouse have been the most successful team, winning the competition three times.

Format

Qualification

The Heineken Cup is open to clubs in the Magners League, Guinness Premiership, Super 10 and the Top 14. Clubs that do not qualify for the Heineken Cup can enter the European Challenge Cup.

22 places are awarded by country, with each country deciding how to allocate their alloted placescite web | url=http://www.ercrugby.com/eng/31_264.php | title= Heineken Cup – Key Tournament Rules | publisher=European Rugby Cup | accessdate=2008-01-12] :
*England: 6 teams (selected by performance in Guinness Premiership and EDF Energy Cup)
*France: 6 teams (selected by performance in Top 14 Championship)
*Ireland: 3 teams (selected by performance in Magners League)
*Wales: 3 teams (selected by performance in Magners League)
*Scotland: 2 teams (selected by participation in Magners League)
*Italy: 2 teams (selected by performance in Super 10 Championship)

The remaining two places in the 24-team tournament are allocated as follows:
*One team comes from France, England or Italy; this place is allocated to the country whose team progressed further in the previous season's Heineken Cup. For example, Toulouse have progressed further in the 2007-08 competition than any English or Italian team, so there are seven French teams in the 2008-09 competition.
*The final team is the winner of a play-off between the best placed team in the Magners League who has not already qualified, and the best placed semi-finalist in the Italian Super 10. The play-off is a single match, which takes place alternately in Italy or the home of the Magners League side. In 2007-08, this play-off was scheduled to take place before the Italian Super 10 semi-finals, so no Italian team was nominated to take part. This meant that the Magners League nominee, the Newport Gwent Dragons, qualified without a playoff.

Regardless of how well they perform domestically, the winners of the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup both qualify for the next year's Heineken Cup, and are awarded places from their countries' allocations.

The Heineken Cup is, generally speaking, the equivalent competition of the UEFA Champions League in professional football, whereas the European Challenge Cup is the equivalent to the secondary UEFA Cup.

A proposal has been made that, in future, rather than Ireland, Wales and Scotland each sending their top-placed teams in the Magners League to the Heineken Cup, the top teams from the league as a whole should be sent, regardless of nationality. [cite web | url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/club/2707620/Scots-approach-Welsh-proposal-with-caution---Rugby-Union.html | title=Scots approach Welsh proposal with caution | publisher=Telegraph.co.uk | accessdate=2008-08-11]

Competition

Pool stage

Six pools of four teams play both home and away games.Until the 2007/2008 season these pools were drawn mostly at random, with the following restrictions [cite web | url=http://www.ercrugby.com/eng/5018_5461.php | title=Biarritz Olympique Secure French Top Seed with Championship Win| date=2006-06-12 | publisher=ERC Rugby | accessdate=2008-05-06] :
*Each nation nominates one of their teams as top seed; these teams are drawn in separate pools.
*Each nation supplies at most one team to each pool, except where England or France supply seven teams in total; in this case, the seventh team drawn will appear in a pool with one other team from that nation. In some cases (such as for the 2007/2008 season) the unseeded Italian and Scottish teams may also deliberately be drawn in different pools.

From the 08/09 season, there is more structure to the pools. The competing 24 teams are ranked based on past performance [cite web | url=http://www.ercrugby.com/eng/12_9903.php | title=New European ranking to be introduced next season| date=2008-03-27 | publisher=ERC Rugby | accessdate=2008-04-02] and arranged into four tiers of six teams, with the reigning champion automatically appearing in the top tier. Each pool receives one team at random from each tier; again, this is subject to the restriction that each pool cannot contain more than one team from each competing nation, except where France or England supply seven teams.

Four points are awarded for a win and two points for a draw. A bonus point is awarded for a loss by seven points or fewer, or for scoring four tries or more. The six pool winners (ranked 1-6 by number of points scored) and two best placed runners-up (ranked seven and eight) qualify for the quarter-finals. Teams ranked one to four have home advantage.

Knock-out stage

The quarter-finals are: team one v team eight; team two v team seven; team three v team six; team four v team five.

The quarter-finals are played at the home stadiums of the higher-seeded clubs, or sometimes at a larger stadium in or near the host team's city. The semi-finals, on the other hand, are always played at nominally neutral venues. Each of the two semi-final venues are in the country of the first team out of the hat when the draw is made. For example, in 2004, Munster v Wasps was played at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, while Toulouse v Biarritz was played in Bordeaux.cite web | url=http://www.irishrugby.ie/6855_3562.php | title=Heineken Cup Semi Final Referees. | date= 2004-04-16 | publisher=BBC | accessdate=2007-03-21]

However, the neutrality requirement is satisfied simply by the designated home team playing outside of its normal stadium. Both 2005 semifinals were held in the host's home city; Leicester Tigers v Toulouse was held at Walkers Stadium in Leicester, not far from Leicester's normal home of Welford Road,cite web | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_union/european/4469813.stm | title=Leicester 19-27 Toulouse | date= 2006-04-24 | publisher=BBC | accessdate=2007-03-21] while Stade Français v Biarritz was played at Parc des Princes in Paris, across the street from Stade's normal home field. The semifinal venue must also meet the following additional criteria; it must have a capacity of at least 20,000cite web | url=http://www.irishrugby.ie/6855_1258.php?PHPSESSID=ee22249a3978865a367d95d0cb40 | title=Heineken Cup Semi Final Venues | date= 2002-02-07 | publisher=Irish Rugby Football Union | accessdate=2007-03-21] and it must be in the same country as the designated home team.

However, the European Rugby Cup, which organises the competition, may allow exceptions, such as with Biarritz, located in a city less than 20km from the Spanish border, being allowed to host their 2006 semi-final across the border at Estadio Anoeta in Donostia-San Sebastián (which is the nearest stadium to Biarritz with a suitable capacity).cite web | url=http://www.irishrugby.ie/6855_4272.php?PHPSESSID=ee22249a3978865a367d95d0cb40 | title=Munster To Reign In Spain? | date= 2005-02-18 | publisher=Irish Rugby Football Union | accessdate=2007-03-21] A similar exception was made for Bourgoin when they hosted Munster in Switzerland at Stade de Genève, Geneva. The final is held at a predetermined site.cite web | url=http://www.rte.ie/sport/2006/1120/munster.html | title=Munster to take on Bourgoin in Geneva | date= 2006-11-20 | publisher=RTÉ Sport | accessdate=2007-03-21]

Finals

Attendance

ee also

* Heineken Cup finals
* European Challenge Cup
* Guinness Premiership (England)
* Magners League (Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
* Top 14 (France)
* Super 10 (Italy)

References

External links

* [http://www.ercrugby.com/ ERC Rugby Official website of the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/european/default.stm Heineken Cup on BBC Sport]
* [http://www.planet-rugby.com/Tournaments/European_Cup/index.shtml Heineken Cup on Planet Rugby] (warning: popups)
* [http://www.heineken.com Heineken Official website]
* [http://www.eurorugby.com/modules.php?name=Rcurrent Euro Rugby Unofficial European club rankings]


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