The Heineken Cup kicks off for it's eighth season on October 11th 2002, promising more of the drama, excitement and heartbreak that has gripped Europe since the tournament's inception in 1995
From relatively humble beginnings at Farul Constanta on the Black Sea, the Heineken Cup has grown into a tournament of international prestige, widely described by coaches and players as the tournament to be involved in, and the tournament to win.
Last year's final in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium saw the 2001 champions Leicester Tigers tackle the 2000 finalists Munster Rugby.
The setting was fitting for the biggest game of the season, and 74,600 fans- the biggest Heineken Cup crowd ever - saw a titanic battle under the closed room of the Cardiff showpiece stadium.
Leicester reigned supreme, winning 15-9 and going home with the trophy for the second year running.
And Leicester are back in Wales to defend their crown for the opening game of this year's competition. The Tigers travel to the Gnoll to take on Neath on Friday.
All this week on wru.co.uk we will take a look at our entrants to this year's competition.
Wales have five sides involved this season, but who will progress furthest? Today we take a look at Leicester's opponents on opening night, Neath...
Neath qualified for the Heineken Cup by virtue of their third place finish in last season's Welsh/Scottish League.
A strong run at the end of the competition saw the Welsh All Blacks pushing for top spot, and they have continued their fine form into this year's Celtic League.
Led by Wales lock Gareth Llewellyn, the Neath pack have shown this season they can win by frustrating the opposition, and winning penalties in deep positions. In kicker Lee Jarvis they have a powerful weapon. Jarvis was Welsh rugby's leading points scorer last season.
Behind the scrum Neath have European pedigree in the shape of Andy Moore. Moore played in the first Heineken Cup final at the Arms Park in '96, and his leadership skills are still a driving force for Neath.
Coach Lyn Jones believes his side have enough in the locker to beat Leicester, and his men will need all that confidence in order to get a result. If they do, then fancy Neath to do well in the competition.
Beziers and Amatori & Calvisano make up Neath's group, and if Lyn Jones reckons his side can beat Leicester, then you can bet your bottom dollar he's banking on victories in these games.
Tomorrow, read our assessment of Llanelli.
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October 11th v Leicester (home)
October 19th v Beziers (away)
weekend of 6th Dec. v Ama' & Cal'(away)
weekend of 13th Dec v Ama' & Cal (home)
weekend of 10th Jan v Beziers (home)
weekend of 17 Jan v Leicester (away)
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Bedwas head coach Steve Law and players Nicky Griffiths and Alun Rees extol the virtues of the close knit club as they prepare to host third place RGC 1404 - who are one place head of them on the Principality Premiership points table - on Saturday.
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