Heineken Cup Pool 1: Can the Ospreys finally full their potential?

The greatest club competition in the world returns to Sky Sports this weekend and we look at the contenders in Pool 1.

Last Updated: 09/10/13 3:17pm

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Heineken Cup Preview - Pool 1

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Welcome to the pool of pain! Great for the rugby fans but it's going to be a tough and bruising ask for the players.

They all have plenty of talent in the bank and the bank will be open come the first round. Who knows what to expect from the French champions and where their priorities will be - likewise with Saints who may have to decide which front to put all their efforts into as the season gets into grittier times.

Any of these four sides could win it but we are going to stick our necks out and say this is the Ospreys' year.

CASTRES
Last season finish: Pool stages
Head coach: Serge Milhas
Captain: Remi Tales
Ground: Stade Pierre Antoine
Sky Bet odds: 50/1
Key man: Rory Kockott - kicks everything and will be crucial for the way he bosses his forwards around the park.
Overview: The Top 14 champions are a typical French side - they have played eight games, won four at home and lost four on the road. Whether their focus will be absolutely on the Heineken Cup remains to be seen as this small town will be looking to retain the Top 14 title if at all possible. Rory Kockott has been in great form for them as has another South African born flanker Antonie Claassen - who has been capped for France. The first game up for them is Saints at Franklin's Gardens and that result will determine how they will take this competition

LEINSTER
Last season finish: Pool stages - went on to win the Amlin Challenge Cup
Head coach: Matt O'Connor
Captain: Leo Cullen
Ground: RDS
Sky Bet odds: 11/2
Key man: Ian Madigan. Fly-half Madigan will have a big role to play - he has big boots to fill now that Jonny Sexton has moved to France, and how he orchestrates things will be interesting.
Overview: They were in a tough pool last year and they failed to beat Clermont home and away and that is why they went into the Amlin Cup. They did win it but they will want to right the wrongs and get back to the top of Europe's finest. They certainly have the talent, however injuries are already raising concerns with hooker Richardt Strauss out for the season with a heart condition, new signing Lote Tuquiri battling with a hamstring strain and Brian O'Driscoll is only rated as 50/50 to recover from his calf injury for their first game against Ospreys. They are a side full of absolute class though and their priority is the Heineken Cup.

NORTHAMPTON
Last season finish: Pool stages
Head coach: Jim Mallinder
Captain: Dylan Hartley
Ground: Franklin's Gardens
Sky Bet odds: 16/1
Key man: Kahn Fotuali'i. A fantastic player who could really take the pressure off Stephen Myler at fly-half.
Overview: Alex Corbiseiro and George North are the marquee signings and will no doubt play a huge part for Saints both in the Premiership and in Europe. However it is Kahn Fotuali'i who could be the key for them. They will be strong and robust but may battle on both the Premiership and Heineken Cup fronts. They will also lose a lot of players when the autumn internationals and Six Nations come round - they will say they are targeting both but you have to be focussed from game one for the Heineken Cup while the Premiership you can target a top four finish.

OSPREYS
Last season finish: Pool stages
Head coach: Steve Tandy
Captain: Alun-Wyn Jones
Ground: Liberty Stadium
Sky Bet odds:22/1
Key man: Dan Biggar has to start performing on a consistent basis.
Overview: With all the super stars in their ranks they have really flattered to deceive in recent years. They have been superb in the Rabo Direct but really need to turn it up for the big games. They have a lot of individual skills and a very impressive front five who have recently performed so well for the Lions. Alun-Wyn Jones is a fine leader and showed his worth in Australia for the Lions - if there is one person you want to turn to in the change room it's him. In the big games they just don't do enough but hopefully with the Lions victory still ringing in the ears of Richard Hibbard Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Ian Evans, they could just make it the Ospreys' year.

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