- Ask Steven Rugby
Getting to the final fourJohn GriffithsApril 23, 2014
Which sides have reached the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup most often? Ben King, England
The tournament launched in 1995 with a dozen sides representing Ireland, Wales, France, Italy and Romania. There were four pools of three, each winner progressing straight to a semi-final.
All told, in the 19 seasons to date (including this season), 24 different clubs have played in at least one semi-final. Only twice - in 2007 and 2009 - was there no semi-finalist from France.
Munster head the list. Their tie with reigning champions Toulon in Marseille later this month will be their eleventh semi - one more than Toulouse (whose last appearance at this stage was in 2011).
The leading semi-finalists are as follows:
Munster - 11
Toulouse - 10
Leinster - 7
Leicester - 6
Biarritz - 4
Cardiff, Perpignan, Stade Français, Llanelli, Northampton, Saracens and Clermont-Auvergne have all reached the semis three times now.
Edinburgh (in 2012) are the only Scottish side to have reached the stage.
This year's semi-finalists - Clermont, Munster, Saracens and Toulon - are exactly the same combination as last year - the first time there has ever been a perfect correlation to the last four in successive seasons. Saracens, Clermont and Toulon are relatively new to the stage: Saracens' three advances to the semis were in 2008, last year and this season; Clermont's three appearances were in 2012, 2013 and this year; and Toulon's two were last year and this.
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.