No fear for Chiefs
Dean Ryan casts his eye over the Heineken Cup pools and says Exeter will relish taking on Leinster.
Last Updated: 16/06/12 9:45am
Dean Ryan cast his eye over the Heineken Cup pools and said that Exeter Chiefs will not mind being in the same group as Leinster.
The Heineken Cup new boys will face the defending champions in Pool Five as well as French giants Clermont and the Scarlets.
Four-time champions Toulouse will take on Leicester, the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso in a tough-looking Pool Two while Harlequins will face Connacht for the second season along with Biarritz and new Italian side Zebre in Pool Three.
Northampton Saints, beaten finalists in 2011, will take on 2012 finalists Ulster, Glasgow Warriors and Castres in Pool Four. Last year's surprise semi-finalists Edinburgh will face Saracens, Munster and Racing Metro in Pool One and Cardiff Blues, Toulon, Sale Sharks and Montpellier are grouped together in Pool Six.
Here's what Dean had to say after the draw...
Pool One: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro
I don't think that is as difficult as some of the names suggest. Munster are under new management as Rob Penney comes in. They have a great European record but they are in transition. Edinburgh were semi-finalists this year but I think Saracens will look at this and say that they should be getting out into the qualifying rounds.
Pool Two: Toulouse, Leicester, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso
There is always a pool of death no matter where you go. Leicester always seem to attract it - they were in it last year. They have Top14 winners Toulouse and Rabo Direct champions Opsreys. Ospreys are a side who have never really been able to take their domestic form into Europe will be looking at that and saying it is going to be a tough year. Then you throw in Treviso who on home form can really throw a curve ball into the mix. Leicester will be looking to come hard at this but this is going to be a huge challenge for all the clubs.
Pool Three: Biarritz, Harlequins, Connacht, Zebre
I think Harlequins will be pretty pleased. Biarritz had a poor domestic season and qualified through the Amlin when they beat Toulon. The only question mark over Quins is going back to Connacht. Connacht was the side that they lost to in Galway which allowed Toulouse to go through as second best losers and there will be a little bit of a revenge mission there. Zebre, the new Italian club should not be too much of a challenge and I think Quins will be disappointed not seeing themselves coming out of this group as winners.
Pool Four: Northampton Saints, Ulster, Glasgow Warriors, Castres
This is a really interesting group as you have some teams who could be real forces in Europe in years to come. Northampton were finalists in 2011 and Ulster were finalists this year. Glasgow made the play-offs this year and Castres is one of those really tough places. They are always up in the top six in the Top 14 and playing them in their own back yard is really tough.
Pool Five: Leinster, Exeter, Clermont, Scarlets
Exeter would just be delighted to be at this sort of level and competing in Europe - they don't want to avoid the big guns because that is part of the experience. I don't think Leinster will be over the moon at seeing Clermont in their group though. They are certainly a coming force in Europe and have been strong domestically. They have retrained their sights on getting more out of Europe - it was a last minute hold-out that got Leinster through in their semi-final against the French side. The Scarlets under new management will probably be looking at this group and saying they won't see themselves progressing.
Pool Six: Cardiff Blues, Toulon, Sale Sharks, Montpellier
Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon are back after their performance in the Top 14 and Sale are back too. Cardiff will be going through some tough transitions as a lot of their players are moving on. Montpellier are going to be a real challenge. They have done well this year and I think they will really challenge for honours in that group.