Global stars set to light up Europe

Players from all seven Gallagher Premiership club line-up on the St James' Park pitch at today's Heineken Champions Cup launch in Newcastle. Picture: Inpho

By Mark Stevens

The Heineken Champions Cup is ready once again to deliver nine weekends of world-class action and passionate spectator support as the only European club tournament featuring the very best players throughout the entire season.

That was one of the key themes of today’s 2018/19 EPCR Season Launch for Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs staged at St James’ Park, Newcastle which will become the first English venue outside of Twickenham Stadium to host a European Cup final on 11 May 2019.

More than 30,000 tickets have already been sold for the Heineken Champions Cup showpiece, illustrating the widespread appeal of European club rugby’s blue-riband tournament which is widely regarded as The One to Win.

Leading lights of the European game attended EPCR’s third and final Season Launch at Newcastle’s historic venue including Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter and winger Olly Woodburn.

The Gallagher Premiership contingent aiming to reach the business end of EPCR’s tournaments this season are among 18 former winners of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, boasting an impressive total of 41 European titles between them.

Directors of Rugby and Head Coaches, as well as high-profile players from the seven English clubs participating in the Heineken Champions Cup attended the Newcastle event which was compered by BT Sport’s Martin Bayfield.

The Heineken Champions Cup kicks-off on Friday, 12 October with the Pool 1 clash of holders, Leinster, and Wasps at the RDS Arena live on BT Sport while the following day, the meeting of Bath Rugby and Toulouse will be broadcast live on a free-to-air basis on Channel 4 in the UK and on Virgin Media in Ireland.

With Channel 4 and Virgin Media broadcasting a free-to-air Heineken Champions Cup match in every round up to and including the final to complement BT Sport’s cutting-edge coverage, EPCR’s TV platform has been further enhanced with the recent announcement of NBC Sports as rights holders in the USA.

EPCR Chairman, Simon Halliday, said: "Fans are voting with their feet in appreciating the quality of European club rugby with the aggregate attendances for our top-flight tournament set to pass the 20 million mark this season and we are looking forward to more great rugby from English clubs this season in both tournaments on the road to Newcastle, which is undoubtedly an outstanding venue for our finals.

"In the region of 9,000 tickets remain on public sale for the Heineken Champions Cup final which shows how this venue has captured the imagination of rugby fans all over Europe. It’s an exciting time in general for our tournaments with improved broadcast platforms and the potential for the new audiences they will bring."

Rob Baxter and Olly Woodburn line-up alongside the Heineken Champions Cup trophy

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