The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Councillor Derrick Morgan, with the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup at today's trophy handover at Cardiff Castle.
The countdown to one of Europe's great sporting weekends is fully underway following today's handover in the Welsh capital of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup trophies to the Lord Mayor of Cardiff.
Councillor Derrick Morgan accepted the two pieces of silverware at City Hall just under a fortnight before thousands of supporters from all corners of the continent descend on Cardiff for the 2014 Amlin Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup finals on the weekend of 23 and 24 May.
Cardiff is steeped in European club rugby history having hosted six Heineken Cup finals and one Amlin Challenge Cup decider to date, and the city remains a hugely compelling destination for rugby fans. The finals also form a showpiece event during the city's year as European Capital of Sport 2014.
Supporters can still buy tickets for the Heineken Cup decider at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday week which promises to be a classic Anglo-French clash between holders, RC Toulon, and Saracens, while the Amlin Challenge Cup final featuring Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints at the Cardiff Arms Park the evening before is a sell-out.
Cardiff is set to reap a host of additional benefits with research following ERC's 2011 finals demonstrating that the economic impact on the Welsh capital from the 83,000 fans who attended the games amounted to £24 million, with 70,000 of those supporters coming from outside Wales.
Both finals, which will feature players from as many as 15 nations including such stars of the global game as Jonny Wilkinson, George North, Schalk Brits and Bryan Habana, will be broadcast in more than 150 countries worldwide with additional news coverage in the days building to the showpiece weekend.
ERC has entered into a partnership with Cardiff City Council to create a European Champions Village fan experience outside Cardiff Castle. With Duke Street pedestrianised on the Saturday of the Heineken Cup final, the Champions Village will be open from midday and will offer a perfect opportunity for locals to savour the unique atmosphere of a major European rugby occasion.
The Village will be the focal point for a gathering of fans, both local and overseas with live music, interactive games, a Heineken Cup trophy photo booth, a big screen, Heineken bars and local cuisine as well as special guests from the world of rugby.
As part of the build-up to the finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players. More than 100 players aged between 11 and 12 from seven schools in the Cardiff region took part in a qualification festival as part of the programme targeting schools which are not traditionally associated with rugby.
The winning schools, Radyr and St Telios High School, will compete in the final of the inaugural Cardiff 2014 Rugby Cup at the Amlin Challenge Cup final venue, Cardiff Arms Park, on Wednesday week.
Tickets are available for the Heineken Cup final via ticketmaster.co.uk and Ticketlineuk in Cardiff with full details on www.ercrugby.com/finals
Friday, 23 May Amlin Challenge Cup final
Bath Rugby v Northampton Saints
Cardiff Arms Park 8.00pm
Saturday, 24 May European Champions Village
Duke Street from 12 noon
As the countdown continues for RWC2015, Tournament Chief Executive Debbie Jevans visited the Millennium Stadium to discuss preparations for the eight matches and reveal the positive news that 100,000 tickets for games at the home of Welsh rugby have sold in the last seven days.
Jason Harries is targeting a first win on the World Series circuit this season with Wales. The series returns to action this weekend in Dubai where Harries is part of a team hoping to build from its efforts in round one in October.
Wales skipper Jevon Groves says his side have addressed a few points from Gold Coast and aim to 'hit the ground running' in the next two rounds of the World Series, kicking off with this weekend in Dubai before heading off to South Africa next week.
Wales Sevens manager Steff Thomas is hopeful his side can build from a quarter-final spot in the opening round of the World Series in Australia when his side take part in the forthcoming double header in Dubai and South Africa.