Battle lines drawn for Heineken Cup
June 5, 2013
Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon will begin the defence of their Heineken Cup crown against Cardiff Blues, Glasgow and Exeter Chiefs © Getty Images
Premiership champions Leicester Tigers will tackle beaten RaboDirect PRO12 finalists Ulster, Top 14 side Montpellier and Italian club Treviso in the pool stages of next season's Heineken Cup.
Northampton Saints, beaten by Leicester in last month's Premiership title-decider, face arguably a tougher test having been drawn against Amlin Challenge Cup and PRO12 champions Leinster, Top 14 winners Castres and PRO12 outfit the Ospreys.
Saracens, who topped the Premiership at the end of the regular season only to exit in the semi-finals, face French giants Toulouse, Irish side Connacht and Italian minnows Zebre. Exeter Chiefs, who graced the competition for the first time last season, will tackle defending champions Toulon, Cardiff Blues and Glasgow in the pool stages next term.
Harlequins must face French giants Clermont Auvergne, beaten by Toulon in last season's European showpiece, Top 14 powerhouse Racing Metro and Welsh PRO12 side Scarlets. Gloucester complete the Premiership contingent in Pool 6 where they are set to take on Irish province Munster, French side Perpignan and PRO12 side Edinburgh.
Commenting on his side's draw, Tigers boss Richard Cockerill told the club's official website: "You always know you are going to be in a hotly contested pool and next season's draw is no different. Ulster reached the Heineken Cup final just a year ago after coming out of our pool, and they topped the table in the Celtic League (RaboDirect PRO 12) competition this year.
"Montpellier had a strong season in the French Top 14 and were only eliminated in the play-offs by the eventual champions Castres. They are recruiting strongly for next season and will undoubtedly present a tough challenge. We know Treviso well after being paired with them in recent seasons. They have a lot of the Italian national squad in their ranks and they are always tough opponents."
His Quins counterpart Conor O'Shea told quins.co.uk: "It is incredibly challenging and exciting for us to have to play two superpowers of not just French but also European rugby in our pool.
"In addition, we have been drawn with Scarlets, another club with great tradition and talented players who are experienced in European competition. Another challenging Heineken Cup season beckons, we have everything to play for and can't wait to get started."
The draw was also made for the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup that will see newly-promoted Newcastle line up against Brive, Calvisano and Bucuresti in Pool 3. Bath will face Dragons, Bordeaux-Begles and Mogliano in Pool 2 while Sale and Worcester have been grouped with Biarritz and PRO D2 winners Oyonnax in Pool 1.
London Wasps head Pool 4 where they will do battle with Italian side Viadana and the French duo of Bayonne and Grenoble. London Irish are the only other Premiership side in the competition and they will vie with Stade Francais, Cavalieri Prato and Olympus in Pool 5.
Heineken Cup - Pool Draw:
Amlin Challenge Cup - Pool Draw:
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