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John Griffiths | Columnist Index
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, including The Book of English International Rugby, The Book of International Rugby Records, British Lions, The Five Nations Championship, Rugby's Strangest Matches and Rugby's Greatest Characters. He was a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph for 19 years and is co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has also provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.
Ask John
Record-breaking Heineken Cup special
John Griffiths
May 23, 2012
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll and Brad Thorn celebrate victory, Leinster v Ulster, Heineken Cup Final, Twickenham, England, May 19, 2012
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll and Brad Thorn celebrate their Heineken Cup final victory over Ulster © PA Photos
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Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition, John collates a whole host of Heineken Cup-themed questions that landed in our mailbox following Leinster's triumph over Ulster last weekend.

What were the previous best scores for a Heineken Cup finale?

Leinster's 42-14 triumph set new records for the highest score and biggest winning margin in a Heineken Cup Final.

Leicester set the mark for the previous highest score in their 34-30 win against Stade Français at the Parc-des-Princes, Paris in 2001.

Brive's 28-9 win against Leicester in 1997 at Cardiff was the previous best margin for a Final.

Leinster also became the first team to score five tries in a Final on Saturday. Brive managed four in the 1997 win against Leicester.

Whose "old age" record for a final did Brad Thorn beat?

At 37 years and 106 days Brad Thorn became the oldest player to appear in a Final.

He took that record from Marc dal Maso who came on as a replacement for Perpignan in their losing Final against Toulouse in 2003. Dal Maso was 36 years and 99 days, more than a year younger than Thorn.

Darren Garforth was the previous oldest Cup final-winner. He was 36 years and 46 days when he played for Leicester in the 2002 win against Munster in Cardiff.

Who is the youngest player to start on the winning side in three Heineken Cup Finals?

Cian Healy has started in all three of Leinster's Heineken Cup final wins and was the youngest member of their starting line-up on Saturday. He became the youngest player to achieve that feat of three winning final starts, aged 24 years and 225 days on Saturday. Toulouse's Clément Poitrenaud was the previous record-holder. He was 28 years and 2 days when he started his third winning Final in 2010.

Who has refereed most Heineken Cup finals?

Nigel Owens of Wales controlled his third final on Saturday to equal the record. He had previously officiated at the 2008 and 2009 finals (won by Munster and Leinster respectively so that all of his Finals have been won by Irish provinces).

England's Chris White is the only other referee with three Heineken Cup finals to his name. He was in charge in 2003, 2005 and 2006.

Five finals have been controlled by Welsh referees, five* by Englishmen, four by Irishmen, three by Frenchmen and one by a Scot.

* Two Englishmen took part in the 2003 final, Tony Spreadbury coming on as an early replacement for Chris White.

Which teams have won back-to-back finals?

Leinster became only the second side in the history of the Cup to win back-to-back titles. They had beaten Northampton 33-22 at Cardiff last year.

Leicester beat Stade Français 34-30 in 2001 and retained the title by defeating Munster 15-9 in the final at Cardiff a year later.

Leinster have now won the title three times. Only Toulouse, with wins in 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010 have lifted the Cup more often.

What are the highest attendances for Heineken Cup finals?

Saturday's attendance at Twickenham was a new record for a Heineken Cup final. The top five attendances are as follows:

81,744 - Twickenham, Leinster-Ulster, 2012
81,076 - Twickenham, Wasps-Leicester, 2007
78,962 - Stade de France, Toulouse-Biarritz, 2010
74,600 - Millennium Stadium, Leicester-Munster, 2002
74,534 - Millennium Stadium, Munster-Biarritz, 2006

The tournament has certainly come a long way since the inaugural final at Cardiff in 1996 when only 21,800 were present.

Which players have won Super Rugby and Heineken Cup finals?

Brad Thorn became only the third man to play in winning Super Rugby and Heineken Cup finals.

The full list reads:
Rod Kafer - Super 12 winner 2001 with Brumbies, Heineken Cup winner with Leicester 2002
Doug Howlett - Super 12 winner 2003 with Blues, Heineken Cup winner with Munster 2008
Brad Thorn - Super 14 winner 2008 with Crusaders, Heineken Cup winner 2012 with Leinster

Given that Thorn has also played in two Tri-Nations Grand Slam-winning teams (in 2003 and 2010), in another Tri-Nations title-win in 2008 and was a member of New Zealand's Rugby World Cup-winning team in 2011, he can arguably lay claim to the title most successful rugby union player of the professional era.

Pedrie Wannenburg would have joined the select club of Super Rugby/Heineken Cup winners instead of Thorn had Ulster won on Saturday. The Ulster and former Springbok back-row player won Super Rugby Finals with the Bulls in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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