The European Rugby Challenge Cup has received a significant boost with the news that S4C will broadcast one live match per round during the pool stage of the tournament following an agreement with rights-holders BT Sport and EPCR.
Cardiff Blues, Dragons and Scarlets are all competing in this season’s competition and the Blues became the first Welsh region to lift European silverware when they won the Challenge Cup in Marseille in 2010, before following that up with a thrilling victory over Gloucester Rugby to earn a second title in Bilbao in 2018.
The Blues’ Round 2 home fixture against fellow European heavyweights, Leicester Tigers, will be screened live on S4C and BT Sport on Saturday, 23 November with the opening round of action broadcast from Llanelli where Scarlets play host to London Irish in a strong Pool 2 that also includes Bayonne and three-time Heineken Champions Cup winners, RC Toulon.
Cardiff will be the focal point for the European rugby fraternity this week as clubs from the Gallagher Premiership and PRO14 assemble at the Principality Stadium on Wednesday to launch the 25th season of the European Cup. Emile Ntamack – the first captain to lift the trophy with Toulouse in the Welsh capital in 1996 – will be in attendance to relive his club’s historic moment.
All 60 matches in the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage will be screened live on BT Sport, with one match per round also available on a free-to-air basis to fans in the United Kingdom and Ireland via Channel 4 and Virgin Media. BT Sport will continue as the home of Challenge Cup matches across the UK including coverage of Welsh sides. It will air four live Challenge Cup matches across the opening rounds of the competition, including Wasps’ visit to Bordeaux-Bègles on Saturday, 16 November and Leicester Tigers v Cardiff Blues on Sunday, 12 January.
The season kicks off on Friday, 15 November when Gloucester Rugby welcome four-time champions, Toulouse, to Kingsholm Stadium.
EPCR Marketing and Commercial Director François Vergnol said: “Many of the unforgettable moments in European club rugby have happened in Wales, which is why many consider it to be its spiritual home. It is fantastic news that rugby fans will have access to Welsh regions playing in the Challenge Cup through live coverage on S4C and we thank both them and BT Sport for bringing this to fruition.”
Sue Butler, S4C Sports Commissioner, said: “After the World Cup, regional and club rugby is back in focus and S4C is delighted to be once again showing European matches. With three Welsh regions in the Challenge Cup, we have a live game in each of the first six rounds and looking forward to starting at Parc y Scarlets for the game against London Irish.”