ERC CHIEF EXECUTIVE DEREK MCGRATH:
"After considering all points of view, the board decided to move the
opening two rounds of the Heineken Cup from September to October and rounds three and four to December.
"The Pool stages will once again be completed in January, but we have moved
the quarter-finals so that the whole of the knock-out phase will now be completed after the Six Nations championship.
"We also decided to build in a one week gap before and after internationals in consideration of the demands on players and their preparations for international matches."
ERC CHAIRMAN, JEAN-PIERRE LUX:
"By separating the Pool stages from the knock-out phase it also means we can
now focus on two distinct phases of the tournament and develop momentum for
"It also means more clubs will be involved for a longer period in the
tournament, therefore maintaining a wider interest in the competition.
"We did consider a six week block for the Pool stages, as well as a proposal
for two blocks of three matches. In the end, three groups of two games
received more support.
"ERC feels that by having blocks of two matches of the tournament allows
the clubs to promote key home and away fixtures in three significant rugby
The format of the PARKER PEN SHIELD for next season was also discussed and
the board resolved to develop the concept of a knock-out format for the
competition for next season.
There will be a special meeting of the ERC rugby sub-committee in the near
future to further discuss the matter and table plans. In the meantime, the
clubs, Unions, sponsors and broadcasters will continue to be consulted.
HEINEKEN CUP 2002/2003
Round 1: 11/12/13 October
Round 2: 18/19/20 October
Round 3: 6/7/8 December
Round 4: 13/14/15 December
Round 5: 10/11/12 January
Round 6: 17/18/19 January
Quarter-Finals: 11/12/13 April
Semi-Finals: 26/27 April
HEINEKEN CUP FINAL: 24 May
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.