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Leeds Carnegie back in the big time
November 6, 2007

Leeds Carnegie are back in Europe - and last season's English National League One winners are in a tough Pool with all four teams having tasted Heineken Cup rugby.

Castres Olympique and Rugby Calvisano were there last season, Leeds in 2005 / 2006 while Dax have to go back 11 seasons. And Leeds captain Stuart Hooper cannot wait for his side to test themselves against French and Italian opposition.

"It is fantastic to be back playing in Europe and in the top flight in England," said the second row forward. "We have had six games in the Premiership and a couple in the EDF Energy Cup and now it is Europe and a home game against Castres on Friday evening.

"What is so special about the European Challenge Cup is that you have to travel to different countries and experience different styles - it is great for player development.

"We have had two seasons in the Heineken Cup and three in the Challenge Cup so we have got the experience of playing against teams of the highest quality and all our opponents this time have the potential to provide us with huge challenges.

"That is just what we want and, as we played Castres in a pre-season game two seasons ago, we know pretty much what to expect.

"They are a tremendously physical side with an outstanding pack and a couple of All Black props and of course they also have our former player Phil Christophers in their squad so I am sure there will be a warm Headingley welcome for him.

"First and foremost you have to win your home games in this tournament because you know when you travel away that it will be that much harder as you will be coming up against passionate players and passionate supporters.

"On paper Castres could be our toughest group opponents but the beauty of Europe is that you can never be certain of the strengths and weaknesses of the sides you are playing.

"But playing every week against international players in the Premiership, not to mention the Scarlets last weekend in the EDF, is all you can ask for and now we are looking forward to our tests in the European Challenge Cup."

EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP - (All kick-offs LOCAL time)

ROUND 1

THURSDAY 8 NOVEMBER, 2007
Pool 4 Sale Sharks v Montpellier 19.45 Carlo Damasco (It)
Sky Sports / France 4
FRIDAY 9 NOVEMBER, 2007
Pool 2 Montauban v Gran Parma 18.30 Neil Patterson (S)
Pool 3 Brive v Connacht Rugby 19.30 Andrew Small (E)
Pool 4 Bayonne v Petrarca Rugby 19.30 Rob Debney (E)
Pool 5 Leeds Carnegie v Castres Olympique 20.00 James Jones (W)

SATURDAY 10 NOVEMBER, 2007
Pool 1 Auch v Bath Rugby 20.45 David Keane (I) Eurosport France
Pool 1 Overmach Rugby Parma v Albi 15.00 Andrew McPherson (S)
Pool 2 Bucuresti v Worcester Warriors 14.00 Jerome Garces (F)
Pool 3 Cetransa El Salvador v Newcastle Falcons 16.30 Stefano Mancini (It)

SUNDAY 11 NOVEMBER, 2007
Pool 5 Rugby Calvisano v Dax 15.00 Dean Richards (E)

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