It's really about the memories you have
Peter Stringer is in line to become the third player to make 100 appearances in European competitions when Bath take on Mogliano in their Challenge Cup game on Saturday.
The 98-times capped Ireland international scrumhalf, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday, is poised to join former Munster teammates, Ronan O'Gara and John Hayes, in the European rugby 100 club. His ex-halfback partner, O'Gara, leads the way with 112 European matches, while Hayes ended his illustrious career on 103.
Stringer, who will receive a specially commissioned ERC Elite Award to mark his achievement if he is involved at the weekend, made his European debut in a European Cup clash for Munster against Perpignan on 10 October, 1998. The French club ran out comfortable winners by 41-24, but it was the start of a remarkable run of 90 games in the European Cup for the combative No 9.
Along the way, he played in three European Cup finals and was a replacement in a fourth. He picked up a winner's medal in 2006 when Munster beat Biarritz Olympique at the Millennium Stadium largely due to his famous blindside try, and got hold of another two years later again in Cardiff when Munster beat Toulouse.
He played 93 games in the European Cup and Challenge Cup for Munster between 1998 and 2011 before switching to Saracens, and then Bath. He made four appearances for Saracens in the European Cup and has featured in three Challenge Cup games to date for Bath.
He reflected: "My first start was away against Perpignan back in 1998 - and it was a tough place to start! I'd never experienced anything like it before.
"I'd only been playing for a couple of years since coming out of school and I'd been playing local games. You're then thrown into the south of France and a hot bed of rugby and it was quite an eye opening experience. We didn't win but just to get a sense of playing on that stage, and in an atmosphere like that, was pretty special.
"I remember speaking to a lot of the older guys who were playing that day and had been involved in heavy defeats to Toulouse a couple of years earlier. We gave a good account of ourselves and things really started to grow from there," he said.
Stringer said he will never forget his special relationship with the Munster fans.
"The confidence they've shown in the team over the years and the way they've stood by us win, lose or draw, has really stuck with the players. It really motivated us to know that whenever we played, home or away, they'd be there. That was a massive thing for us to be a team that would always be close to its supporters.
"They were with us every step up of the way - that meant a lot to us and really brought the best out of the team. The big games, the big occasions, getting to travel, people enjoy that," he said.
The combative scrumhalf added that to reach 100 caps is great, but what he will cherish most is the memories made along the way.
"It makes me feel like I've been playing the game for a while! Obviously, it's a nice number to get to, but it's just a number - that's really all it is.
"It's really about the memories you have, the players you play with and the experiences you have on the pitch. That's what you take out of it. There's no point having those numbers if you're not successful and not winning things," he said.