As a World Cup winner, Lions selection and multiple league and cup champion, Ben Kay knows all about rugby glory but the 2001 European Cup win with Leicester Tigers remains his favourite game.
Kay was signed from Waterloo when a number of senior players were away at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, including captain Martin Johnson, and quickly established himself on the way to the top honours in the game.
And he says the Heineken Cup win in Paris still stands out as extra special.
“We were a top side, we were used to playing in the Heineken Cup, but I remember thinking I would never be as nervous again in any game of rugby,” says Kay who is now part of BT Sport’s commentary team.
“I genuinely thought that, even a World Cup Final, I would never be that nervous again.
“But it is without a doubt my favourite-ever game. The game, the build-up, the stadium, the crowd… it was an unforgettable experience.”
Tigers played the Final in the backyard of their rivals, with the Stade Francais home stadium so close to the Parc des Princes, but that team was not known for turning down a challenge.
“We probably felt up against it, but we had that fight in us,” Kay says.
“There was simply a toughness about that pack. Even now, you wouldn’t find many forwards at the same level of mental toughness.
“It was that feeling that whatever happened, no matter how well a team played against us, we had been through the pain, we had been there and we would still get there in the end.”
Kay will join team-mates from that famous occasion at a 20th Anniversary Dinner at the Tigers stadium next Wednesday (September 29) in an event hosted by The Sporting Club and Switch The Play Foundation. Book now to reserve a place.
Tigers have also produced a 20th Anniversary publication featuring interviews from the 2001 squad including Martin Johnson, Leon Lloyd, Tim Stimpson and Ben Kay. Copies are available now, priced £5 at the Club Shop or online.