Europe's best size each other up

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 12:37
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With battle lines drawn for the pool stage of the Heineken Cup next season the coaches of Europe's top club sides have started planning already.

With battle lines drawn for the pool stage of the Heineken Cup next season the coaches of Europe's top club sides have started planning already.

With an exciting blend of newcomers and established clubs that have dominated the competition over the years there is plenty to do as the premier clubs in Europe aim to knock champions Leinster off their pedestal.

Here are the thoughts of some of the top coaches ahead of the competition:

Michael Bradley, Edinburgh Head Coach
(Pool One: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro 92)

"Reaching the semifinal for the first time was fantastic for the confidence of the players and a wonderful occasion for the club. We know and understand the motivation of teams like Munster, Leinster and Leicester to get back on an annual basis. But everyone has ambitions to go further.

"Munster have a fine pedigree in this competition and their primary focus is always doing well in the Heineken Cup, Saracens are on their way up and are investing heavily in the club, and we had two fantastic games against Racing Metro last year and look forward to renewing that rivalry."

Richard Cockerill, Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby
(Pool Two: Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso)

"It is certainly a tough group. Toulouse are the French champions, Ospreys are the Pro12 champions, and Treviso have the majority of the Italian national squad playing there.

"Leicester have had some great battles with them [Toulouse] over the years. They have strength in depth, a lot of international players and the experience of playing in the biggest games too. They have a quality squad. Anyone who can be as consistently good as they are in the French Championship has to be a top-quality side."

Guy Novès, Toulouse Director of Rugby

"This is a particularly demanding pool, and it is going to be very, very difficult to qualify. There are no weak teams in this pool. Historically, Leicester have always been one of the major players in this competition, and they always seem to be able to rise to the occasion, while the Opsreys play exactly the same type of rugby as the Welsh national team, who won the Grand Slam this year."

Steve Tandy, Ospreys Head Coach

"I'm really excited about the challenge of going up against Europe's best teams. There are six European titles in our group, which says all you need to know. Toulouse are a great club and are always tough opponents and Leicester are familiar for us. We have been up against them in Europe a few times so we know just what to expect. Treviso could hold the key, I can see them causing some upsets. All the teams can beat eachother, but that's what makes it such an exciting pool."

Conor O'Shea, Harlequins Director of Rugby
(Pool Three: Biarritz Olympique, Harlequins, Connacht, Zebre)

"We are delighted to have qualified for the Heineken Cup again and know how difficult it is to progress from the pool stage. We were disappointed to miss out narrowly on reaching the knockout stages last season and we want to make it out of our pool next time around.

"We will not be underestimating the challenge we face in Pool 3. Biarritz are the current Amlin Challenge Cup holders and have played in the Heineken Cup final before and, after our experience in Galway this season, nobody knows better than us what formidable opponents Connacht are when it comes to European competition."

Joe Schmidt, Leinster Head Coach
(Pool Five: Leinster, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter Chiefs)

"Unfortunately, we have to believe it! [on being drawn with Clermont again] We will also be up against the Scarlets and Exeter Chiefs, so it is a tough group. Clermont are an exceptional and extremely well-coached side. They have quality across the board.

"They had a couple of injuries ahead for the semi-final in Bordeaux, and then lost Lee Byrne and Julien Malzieu during the game, so perhaps we had a bit of good fortune on that occasion."

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Tue, 21 February 2017
CUT-Ixias v Shimlas 11h00 Bloemfontein
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 08h45 Melbourne
Fri, 24 February 2017
Highlanders v Chiefs 06h35 Dunedin
Reds v Sharks 09h00 Brisbane
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 17h45 Twickenham Stoop
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Myreside
Dragons v Leinster 19h30 Rodney Parade
Munster v Scarlets 19h35 Thomond Park
Sat, 25 February 2017
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Brumbies 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Force 08h45 Allianz Park
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
EUROPEAN CUP
MORE LOGS
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 5 0 1 24
Glasgow Warriors 6 4 0 2 19
Leicester Tigers 6 2 0 4 8
Racing Metro 6 1 0 5 5
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Wasps 6 4 1 1 22
Toulouse 6 3 2 1 18
Connacht 6 4 0 2 18
Zebre 6 0 0 6 0
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 6 5 1 0 24
Toulon 6 3 0 3 16
Scarlets 6 2 1 3 11
Sale Sharks 6 1 0 5 4
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 4 1 1 23
Montpellier 6 3 0 3 16
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Northampton Saints 6 2 0 4 9
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 26
Bordeaux 6 3 0 3 14
Exeter Chiefs 6 2 0 4 12
Ulster 6 2 0 4 10
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