A proud record will end this weekend when Leicester Tigers run out for the first time in European competition without the velvet voice of Bleddyn Jones on commentary.
Tigers legend Bleddyn has commentated for BBC Radio Leicester on all 144 Tigers fixtures in the Champions Cup to date.
It is thought Bleddyn, a former Tigers fly-half, is the only person to have been an ever-present at all Tigers’ European games.
However, he will miss this season’s Round One game against Racing 92 at Stade Yves du Manoir (formerly Stade Olympique de Colombes) on Saturday to be at the wedding of his nephew Ben Jones.
“It is disappointing for the run to come to an end but I have my duties to my family and my nephew’s wedding will be a wonderful occasion,” said Bleddyn, who was at Tigers’ home today to be interviewed for the latest in the Welford Road Revisited series looking back at 125 years of the iconic stadium.
“I am proud of my record, and I am fortunate to have been able to commentate on so many games, and for that I must thank BBC Radio Leicester for giving me that privilege.
“I did go to Colombes for the game last year, and I was much looking forward to it because it is an iconic stadium. It’s where the Olympics were held, Chariots of Fire was filmed and Wales won a Grand Slam there in the 1970s but it was a bit of a disappointment.
“I think Tigers have a good chance on Saturday. There’s some confidence from four wins on the trot, they are playing some very good rugby, Matt O’Connor has got them playing for him, so I think they have a good chance.”
Chris Egerton, Mike McCarthy and another Tigers legend, Ian ‘Dosser’ Smith, the former player, captain and coach, will form the BBC Radio Leicester commentary team on FM, DAB and online (UK only). The game will also be shown live on BT Sport. Kick-off is at 4.15pm local time (3.15pm UK time).
Bleddyn’s run in Europe stretches back to Tigers’ first-ever Champions Cup game against Leinster Rugby in Dublin’s Lansdowne Road in the 1996/97 season and includes the final victories in Paris and Cardiff.
But he says his favourite game was against Pau in the 1996/97 campaign and a first away trip to France.
“It was something magical,” he said. “We had never played a French team and didn’t know what to expect. It was against the backdrop of the Pyrenees, the atmosphere was something we had not experienced and the hospitality was second to none.
“Pau were hot favourites to win. Bob Dwyer selected Leon Lloyd to make his debut and he scored a length-of-the-field try to win it in the dying minutes. When the team came off the French crowd were not happy, to put it politely!”
Bleddyn made 333 appearances for Tigers and was voted the fly-half by supporters in the Wall of Legends team that adorns the exterior of the Robin Hood Stand at the Aylestone Road end of the stadium.
He has since been part of the BBC Radio Leicester commentary team for more than 30 years.
“I do wonder what my golf handicap would be if I hadn’t commentated on so many games!” he quipped.
Bleddyn is due to be back on commentary for Tigers’ return to Welford Road against Castres Olympique on Saturday, October 21. Join him at the game. Match tickets are now on sale and the fixture is included in season tickets.