Toulon and Racing set for Heineken Cup bow
May 26, 2010
Toulon reflect on their European Challenge Cup Final defeat at the hands of Cardiff Blues on Sunday © Getty Images
European Rugby Cup officials have hailed a record combined attendance for their two showpiece events and also confirmed the qualifiers for next season's Heineken Cup.
Toulouse added the 2010 Heineken Cup crown to the ones they won in 1996, 2003 and 2005 by defeating Biarritz Olympique 21-19 at Stade de France on Saturday watched by a crowd of 78,962 to bring the landmark 15th campaign to a record-breaking end.
On Sunday, a tournament record crowd of 48,990 at Marseille's Stade Velodrome saw Cardiff Blues claim the European Challenge Cup with a 28-21 victory over Toulon. As a result, the finals of the two ERC tournaments were watched by 127,952 fans - beating the old combined mark set in season 2003/04 by over 32,000 - with 1,081,430 fans going through the turnstiles for the season's 79 Heineken Cup matches.
In related news, Racing Metro and Toulon will make their Heineken Cup debuts in early October as the 56th and 57th teams to take part Europe's premier club competition and the Blues' Challenge Cup triumph saw the 24th and final place in the 16th season of the competition go to Welsh region the Scarlets.
The draw for the six 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 - set to be kept apart. And while Racing Metro 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.
The 2010/11 Heineken Cup qualifiers, nation by nation in their ERC European Ranking order, are:
ENGLAND (6): Leicester Tigers, London Wasps, Northampton Saints, Bath Rugby, London Irish, Saracens
The 16th Heineken Cup Final - Millennium Stadium, May 21/22, 2011
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September