Amlin Challenge Cup Pools announced
June 9, 2010
Neil Back's Leeds face a tough task in Stade Francais © Getty Images
The 2010/11 Amlin Challenge Cup drew up some interesting ties after the draw for the five Pools was made in Dublin on Wednesday.
Double tournament winners Sale Sharks, who claimed the title in 2002 and 2005, will face 1997 Heineken Cup winners and 1998 beaten finalists Brive, Italian side Petrarca Rugby and Spanish outfit Cetransa El Salvador in Pool 2 when the competition kicks-off in early October.
Leeds Carnegie face one of the toughest challenges in Stade Francais although they will be more confident of beating Rugby Parma and Bucuresti Oaks in Pool 4.
The five Tier 1 teams - Stade Français Paris, Gloucester Rugby, Sale Sharks, Bourgoin and Harlequins - were kept apart as the 20 teams who have qualified for the 2010/11 competition were graded into four Tiers of five teams with each of the five Pools having one team from each of the four Tier levels.
This year's competition features five sides who took part in last season's Heineken Cup - Stade Français Paris, Gloucester, Sale, Brive and Harlequins. Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs, who won promotion to the Guinness Premiership last month, will be making their European bow when they face Montpellier, Bourgoin, Amlin Challenge Cup runners up in 2009, and the Newcastle Falcons, in Pool 3.
Only Connacht remain from last season's Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finalists, the Irish province looking to match their unbeaten run to the last four when they take on Harlequins, Bayonne and Italian side Cavalieri Prato in Pool 1.
France have a significant seven clubs in the tournament with Pool 3 featuring two of the country's representatives in Bougoin and Montpellier, while Pool 5 features Agen and debutants, La Rochelle alongside Gloucester and Rugby Rovigo.
The draw was conducted using the merit-based ERC European Ranking system compiled on the qualified teams' performances over the past four seasons in the Heineken Cup and knock-out stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP 2010/11 POOLS
POOL 1: Harlequins, Connacht Rugby, Bayonne, Cavalieri Prato
POOL 2: Sale Sharks, Brive, Petrarca Rugby, Cetransa El Salvador
POOL 3: Bourgoin, Newcastle Falcons, Montpellier, Exeter Chiefs
POOL 4: Stade Francais Paris, Rugby Parma, Leeds Carnegie, Bucuresti Oaks
POOL 5: Gloucester Rugby, Agen, Rugby Rovigo, La Rochelle
AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP 2010/11 FIXTURES
ROUND 1 - 7/8/9/10 October, 2010
ROUND 2 - 14/15/16/17 October, 2010
ROUND 3 - 9/10/11/12 December, 2010
ROUND 4 - 16/17/18/19 December, 2010
ROUND 5 - 13/14/15/16 January, 2011
ROUND 6 - 20/21/22/23 January, 2011
QUARTER-FINALS - 8/9/10 April, 2011
SEMI-FINALS - 30 April/1 May, 2011
AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP FINAL - 20/21/22 May, 2011
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra