Coaches react to Cup draw
Cockerill and Toulouse boss Noves eye 'demanding' pool
Last Updated: 12/06/12 7:10pm
Joe Schmidt: Tough group
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt cannot quite believe that his side will have to take on Clermont Auvergne again in next year's Heineken Cup.
The defending champions beat the French side in the semi-finals of this year's competition before clinching the title with a convincing win over Ulster in the final at Twickenham.
The two heavyweights have been drawn together in Pool Five for next year's cup, along with Scarlets and Exeter. Schmidt know he has another tough task ahead.
"Unfortunately, we have to believe it!," said the head coach 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 of 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."
"It is certainly a tough group. Toulouse are the French champions, Ospreys are the RaboDirect PRO12 champions, and Treviso have the majority of the Italian national squad playing there."
Richard Cockerill Quotes of the week
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill knows that Pool Two will be no easy ride either, with the 2012 Premiership runners-up grouped with Toulouse, Ospreys and Benetton Treviso.
"It is certainly a tough group.," said Cockerill. "Toulouse are the French champions, Ospreys are the RaboDirect 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, director of rugby at Toulouse, agreed saying: "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.
"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."
Guy Novès Quotes of the week
"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."
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea meanwhile, said that this year's Premiership champions were not underestimating their opponents in Pool Three - Biarritz, Connacht and Zebre
"Biarritz are the current Amlin Challenge Cup holders and have played in the Heineken Cup final before," he said.
"And, after our experience in Galway this season, nobody knows better than us what formidable opponents Connacht are when it comes to European competition."
Pool One contains Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens and Racing Metro, and Michael Bradley, head coach of 2012 semi-finalists Edinburgh, is looking forward to the challenge.
"Reaching the semi-final for the first time was fantastic for the confidence of the players and a wonderful occasion for the club, he said.
"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... We had two fantastic games against Racing Metro last year and look forward to renewing that rivalry."