Heineken Cup Trophy Tour kicks off at spiritual home of Ru

The 2007 Heineken Cup Trophy Tour started at the spiritual home of rugby union when it launched a 1,500-mile journey around England at Rugby School today (Monday, 20 November).

Austin Healey, today announced as a 2007 Heineken Cup Final Ambassador, set the most prestigious club rugby trophy in the world game on a trek to the four corners of England when he took the cup he won twice as a player onto The Close at Rugby School.

From the field on which the game was first invented more than 150 years ago the trophy that is currently held by mighty Munster will head to the home of the 2007 final, Twickenham Stadium, on Saturday before visiting Dover, Penzance, Carlisle and Alnwick before Christmas.

“The idea behind the tour is to take the Heineken Cup out onto the road in the country that is hosting the final. We have had considerable success in stimulating interest in the tournament, and more specifically the final, in Scotland and Wales in recent years,” said ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath.

“We wanted to start in Rugby this time because this week is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of our game, William Webb Ellis. I am delighted the Rugby School Head Master, Patrick Derham, was able to accommodate our request to visit his school and allow Austin to take the Heineken Cup onto The Close to pay ERC’s small tribute to the man who first picked up the ball and ran with it.

“The Heineken Cup final has quickly established itself as one of the biggest showpiece events in the world game and it is fitting that in the season in which we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of William Webb Ellis’ birth that our final will be staged at the home of English rugby, Twickenham Stadium.”

Austin Healey will join forces with his fellow London ’07 Heineken Cup final ambassador, Miss London, at the second Test between England and South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday for the second leg of the trophy tour.

From there the Heineken Cup will visit all four corners of England before returning to Twickenham before Christmas.

Last year the Heineken Cup was taken to both the highest and lowest points in Wales – the top of Mount Snowdon and the bottom of Big Pit, in Blaenavon. The year before it went to the Western Isles of Scotland and was flown at Mach 2 in an RAF fighter jet.

“The trophy tour is aimed at pointing people in the direction of the Heineken Cup final,” said McGrath. “Already we have sold 25,000 tickets and we want as many people from as many different parts of the host nation to become involved in our showpiece event.”

Miss London, Claire Cooper, will accompany the Heineken Cup to Dover Rugby Club on Tuesday, 28 November and the cup will also visit Penzance later in that week. The final legs of the tour will be to England’s most northerly rugby outposts, Carlisle and Alnwick.

Austin Healey is one of the greatest performers in the history of the Heineken Cup. He played in three finals, has two winners’ medals, was the Heineken Man of the Match in two finals and has an ERC Elite Award for playing 50 games in the tournament.

He made his European debut in the 43-3 home win over Scottish Borders on 19 October, 1996 and scored crucial tries for the Tigers’ on their march to the final against Llanelli in the Pool stages and Toulouse in the semi-final.

Leicester were beaten 28-9 by Brive in the 1997 final at Cardiff Arms Park and were knocked-out in the quarter-finals the following year. He was the chief inspiration behind the sensational Leicester triumph in the 2001 final against Stade Francais at Parc des Princes.

His switch from scrum half to outside half late in the game transformed the game as he paved the way for Leon Lloyd to notch his second try. He won the Man of the Match award in Paris and was also given the accolade the following year in Cardiff when the Tigers’ made it back to back victories.

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