Champions Leinster handed tough draw
June 12, 2012
Leinster will face familiar foes when they come head-to-head with Clermont © Getty Images
Heineken Cup champions Leinster will have to get past Top 14 giants Clermont Auvergne if they are to progress from their group in next season's tournament.
The pair met in the semi-finals of last year's tournament with Leinster running out 19-15 victors before going on to take the final thanks to a convincing 42-14 win over Ulster. It is a tough draw for the champions who also have the Scarlets and Heineken Cup debutants the Exeter Chiefs in their group.
Chiefs coach Rob Baxter is relishing the chance to test his side against the best Europe has to offer. "It's exactly what we wanted and kind of exactly what we anticipated," Baxter said. "As bottom seeds, you're going to get drawn into a tough group whatever happens. Could it come much tougher than that? Probably not.
"Clermont, Leinster and the Scarlets are three very established Heineken Cup sides but, at the same time, it is the way to do it. We worked extremely hard last season to qualify for the Heineken Cup. You don't work that hard to qualify and then hope it's a group you can meander your way through.
"When we're playing well, we're a good side and we've shown that in the Amlin Challenge Cup a few times. We don't fear going to France so that's a positive for us. Playing Leinster away will be a fantastic experience for us and something that the club's never done before."
The Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins will face Connacht for the second time in as many seasons with the Irish side ending Quins' hopes of progressing from their group with a shock 9-8 win last term. They are joined by Amlin Challenge Cup champions Biarritz and new Italian side Zebre who have replaced Aironi.
Top 14 champions Toulouse are in Pool 2 and face Premiership losing finalists the Leicester Tigers. The RaboDirect PRO12 winners the Ospreys also join them in the pool with Treviso completing the line up.
Last season's surprise package Edinburgh, who reached the semi-finals of the tournament thanks to a 19-14 win over Toulouse in the quarters, will have to get past Munster, Saracens and Racing Metro if they are to progress.
Pool 6 offers the potentially mouthwatering match-up of Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon against Danny Cipriani's Sale Sharks. The pair are joined in the Pool by the Cardiff Blues and Montpellier. The 2011-12 Heineken Cup runners-up Ulster will face Northampton Saints, Glasgow Warriors and Castres in Pool 4.
2012-13 Heineken Cup Pools:
Pool 1: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro
Round 1: October 12/13/14, 2012
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