A Brief History Of European Challenge Cup
Since its introduction in 1996 when it was called the European Shield, the Parker Pen European Challenge Cup has seen many changes in its format, with the addition of Parker Pen as principal sponsor in 2001 heralding increased prestige for the tournament.
The Parker Pen European Challenge Cup is a knock-out tournament with 32 teams from eight nations.
Round 1 consists of the 16 seeded teams - six from England, six from France, two from Wales and one each from Scotland and Ireland - being drawn against the 16 unseeded teams.
They will play each other home and away with the 16 aggregate winners will go forward to Round 2. The 16 unsuccessful teams will combine in a separate competition run on identical lines, the Parker Pen Shield
The winner of the Parker Pen European Challenge Cup will automatically qualify for the Heineken Cup 2003/04 tournament.
1996/97 - 24 teams competed in the first ever European Shield, with Bourgoin being crowned the inaugural winners by defeating Castres in the final.
1997/98 - Colomiers continued the initial French dominance of the European Shield, defeating Agen convincingly in the final.
1998/99 - Once again, a French team was triumphant, with Montferrand beating former holders Bourgoin in the final played in Lyon.
1999/00 - With 28 teams competing for the European Shield, Pau eventually beat Castres to be the fourth French side to lift the trophy.
2000/01 - It was the NEC Harlequins who finally ended the French dominance of the European Shield, defeating RC Narbonne after extra time in an epic final.
2001/02 - Under new sponsors, the Parker Pen European Challenge Cup saw 32 teams competing for the title. Sale Sharks emerged victorious, coming from behind to defeat Pontypridd at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford
2002/03 - And the first all British final saw Wasps beat Bath 48 points to 30 at the Madejski Stadium - Reading, the match was marred by the second-half sending off of Bath captain Danny Grewcock for punching his England team-mate Lawrence Dallaglio.
2003/04 - NEC Harlequins lifted the cup after their sensational 27-26 Parker Pen Cup victory over Montferrand. Quins were outplayed for periods of the game but French indiscipline and a never-say-die attitude say them clinch the win with the last kick of the match.
Pau, the champions in 2000, were unable to stem Sale's flow despite the torrential rain. By half time the English club were well on their way to a second title with a 17-3 lead. The first ten points came from Hodgson with a third minute penaly and a 24th minute try and conversion. Pau's only points came from the boot of outside half Lionel Beauxis.
2004/05 - Pau, the champions in 2000, were unable to stem Sale's flow despite the torrential rain. By half time the English club were well on their way to a second title with a 17-3 lead. The first ten points came from Hodgson with a third minute penaly and a 24th minute try and conversion.
Previous Winners Of European Challenge Cup
The Stoop, London
The Stoop, London
Des Sept Deniers
Des Sept Deniers
Stade De la Medi
Cardiff Blues 28–21 Toulon
Northampton Saints 15-3 Bourgoin
Bath 24-16 Worcester
Clermont Auvergne 22-16 Bath Rugby
Gloucester 36-34 London Irish
Sale Sharks 27-3 Section Paloise
NEC Harlequins 27-26 AS Montferrand
Wasps 48-30 Bath
Sale Sharks 25-22Pontypridd
NEC Harlequins 42-33 Narbonne
Pau 34-21 Castres Olympique
Bourgoin 16-35 AS Montferrand
Colomiers 43-5 SU Agen
Bourgoin 18-9 Castres Olympique