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Heineken Cup | The Epic Journey

The Epic Journey

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Season 1995-96

On 26 August 1995, the IRB chairman Vernon Pugh declared rugby union an 'open' sport. Four days later in Dublin, the Five Nations chairman, Fred McLeod, announced details of a European Cup competition. It was the first attempt at a major, cross-border tournament in Europe run on a professional basis and it immediately captured the imagination of clubs, players, coaches and fans across the continent.

Twelve clubs from Ireland, France, Wales, Italy and Romania took part in the inaugural 1995/1996 tournament, competing in four pools of three with the winners qualifying for the semi-finals..

In the final, played in front of a crowd of 21,800 at Cardiff Arms Park on 6 January 1996, TOULOUSE required extra-time before beating Cardiff 21-18 to become the first champions of Europe - carrying off the Heineken Cup in the process. While the first version consisted of just 15 matches, the competition became a truly European event the following season.

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