An exciting new season of European Rugby action kicked off at the EPRC launch in Dublin today, where the Ospreys were represented by skipper, Alun Wyn Jones, and Backs Coach, Gruff Rees.
Ken Owens and Wayne Pivac from the Scarlets were also presented, along with Regional Rugby Wales CEO and EPCR Board Member Mark Davies.
Amongst the other representatives of the PRO12 clubs were Ulster Rugby, Leinster Rugby, Munster Rugby, Glasgow Warriors and Benetton Treviso.
Speaking at the launch, Jones, said:
”I know we’ve had a good start to the PRO12 but we have to park that up now as it counts for nothing. It’s almost like the start of a new season within the season.
“We’ve got a tough group, Northampton and Racing Metro are both up near the top of their domestic leagues, and we know what Treviso can do. It’s exciting. I’m not going to talk about groups of death and all that, there isn’t an easy group in this competition with the new format.
“We’ve got to be at our very best every game if we are going to make any kind of impact. If we aren’t, we’ll pay the price. The target will be to get off to a good start at home in round one in front of our supporters and then build from there, one game at a time.”
As well as the unveiling of the new look trophies, the launch event welcomed Canterbury as official kit supplier to both European Rugby Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup.
Canterbury of New Zealand will provide all match officials kit for the more than 130 games in European professional club rugby tournaments which kick off on the weekend of Thursday 16th October.
A new deal will extend Heineken’s rich rugby heritage into a new era of European professional club rugby, and builds on its unique position as the only brand consistently involved in European club rugby since its inception 20 years ago.
Heineken will give rugby fans the ultimate access to the matches by offering them the chance to partake in the Heineken Back Stage Stadium Tour and to be present at the Heineken Coin Toss alongside the referee and the two captains. In addition, the Heineken Man of the Match will be presented after each game and Heineken will also have extensive online and social media rights to bring engaging and exclusive content to fans of European club rugby everywhere.
Rugby fans will be able to enjoy Heineken at all venues for both tournaments, and the brand will continue to offer fans, old and new alike, the opportunity to see these great matches live through ticket giveaways and competitions.
ECPR announced that it has secured a broadcast partnership with France Televisions for a four-year broadcast rights deal in France to the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup. This completes ECPR’s TV broadcast agreements in France alongside beIN SPORTS.
The new-look European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup now consist of five pools of four clubs with the five pool winners and the three best runners-up qualifying for the knockout stages.
All of the competing clubs in both tournaments have qualified for the first time on merit from their respective domestic leagues, the Aviva Premiership, the Top 14 and the Guinness PRO12, or through a play-off series.
EPCR Board Director and Executive Committee member, Bruce Craig, said:
“We believe the new-look European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments will see European professional club rugby develop at an even faster pace over the coming seasons and we look forward to working closely with new partners in the competition across their markets.”
The European Rugby Champions Cup Trophy
The European Rugby Champions Cup 'Star Cup' concept places the gold star - symbol of Europe and European representation - at the very heart of the design.
The trophy features a unique five handle concept which unfolds from the gold inset chalice and provides an overview of the gold star of Europe. The star serves to connect the first 19 years of European club rugby to the new EPCR era.
When viewed from the side, the five handle design also features a coronet effect to reflect the annual crowning of the 'Kings' of European professional club rugby.
Among the engraved detail are 20 stars representing the 20 elite clubs participating in the European Rugby Champions Cup. Nineteen stars running along the back handle simultaneously recognises the 19 European Cup winners from Toulouse in 1996 through to RC Toulon in 2014, while the 20th star sitting at the base of the chalice will honour the 20th champion club who will be crowned in London in May 2015 as well as all future winners.
Another detail of note suggests that the annual winners of the European Rugby Champions Cup will be standing on the shoulders of giants. The gold base plinth features engravings of the 10 clubs who have previously lifted European club rugby's premier trophy, starting with four-time champions, Toulouse, and followed by the next most successful clubs.
Represented on the gold base are: Toulouse, Leinster Rugby, Leicester Tigers, Wasps, Munster Rugby, RC Toulon, Bath Rugby, Brive, Northampton Saints and Ulster Rugby.
Material: Sterling silver with 18ct gold plating handles and interior.
Features: Five handle Star Cup design and cornet reflecting crowning of Kings of Europe.