Following today’s Pool Draws for the 2015/16 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, see below for reaction from selected Aviva Premiership club representatives.
Mark McCall – Saracens Director of Rugby
“It’s going to be an interesting competition this season with the World Cup, but it’s a very exciting draw. I’ve been back to Ulster twice in the knockout stages and we’ve won both games and I know it is going to be an incredible atmosphere at the Kingspan Stadium with the developments they’ve made there.
“Toulouse have a very settled side, but will have a new coaching team. It will be interesting to see how they go without Guy Noves at the helm. We have learned you have to fight for every point in this competition, so we’ll have to roll up our sleeves.”
Dai Young – Wasps Director of Rugby
“We’re pretty lucky really, because we could’ve got a tough pool! Instead, we only drew the defending European Champions for the past three years, Toulon, three time European Champions Leinster and last season’s Aviva Premiership finalists, Bath!
“To be serious, I imagine in many people’s eyes we’re up against it, but with the journey we’re on, the only way to get better is to challenge ourselves against the best teams and you can’t get much better can you? We already know these will be brilliant European occasions for our fans to enjoy as well, which is really important.
“The players will be very excited – they enjoyed playing away in Dublin and Toulon last season and hopefully those experiences will also help a little next time around. We drew up just short on those visits and know we will have to improve to win, but the good thing is our players now know what to expect, whereas last year they didn’t.
“We welcome the opportunity to measure ourselves against some of the best teams in Europe, if not the world. It’s only going to make us better players and a better team.”
Rob Baxter – Exeter Chiefs Head Coach
“It’s a fantastic draw for us. We’re facing a couple of trips that we’ve not experienced before, as well as going back to Clermont again, who are widely regarded as one of the best club sides in European rugby.
“At this level there are no easy games and every pool will be tough, But we’re a club that likes to take on those tough challenges and that’s what we will look to do in this competition because this draw is just reward for the hard work and effort that was put in by everyone last season.”
Richard Cockerill, Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby
“It’s not an easy draw, but they are all tough pools which is what you want to see in Europe’s major knockout tournament. We’ll look forward to entertaining big clubs like Munster and Stade Francais on big European days at Welford Road and, of course, we have played Treviso many times in recent seasons.
“Treviso have been recruiting well and they will be even stronger next season. We’ve found them difficult opponents, especially away from home.
“Stade have shown their qualities by coming through the Top 14 this season and beating Clermont in the final. Munster already have quality players and can be expected to recruit again. We’ve got some great memories of playing them in Europe – at just about every stage of the competition, from pool stages to the final of course.”
Mike Ford – Bath Rugby Head Coach
“European competition is the pinnacle of club rugby, and we’re really excited to have been drawn against three former champions. Each team presents their own challenges, and whilst we may be more familiar with Wasps, it means we know just how competitive they can be. We want to test ourselves against the best, and can’t wait for the challenge that awaits.”
David Humphreys – Gloucester Director of Rugby
“The game against Worcester Warriors is the stand-out fixture for us because it will be a local derby. There will certainly be an edge to those fixtures and it means neither the players nor fans will have to travel too far.
“I know very little about La Rochelle at this stage, other than it is a nice place to visit. We obviously know Zebre quite well having played them twice in the pool stage last season.
“While the pool doesn’t look as tough as some of the others, I know full well that you cannot take anything or anyone for granted in European competition. We really enjoyed our time in the Challenge Cup last season and winning it was great for the players, fans and the club as a whole.
“We are excited at the prospect of defending our title and we’d love to get back into the Champions Cup – it’s where we want to be. Looking at that draw, and where we might have been had we beaten Bordeaux-Begles, it is obvious the standard is just getting higher and higher and the competition is becoming more and more competitive.”
John Kingston – Harlequins Head Coach
“I’m glad we didn’t draw another English club, the pool has a real European feel to it. We have great memories from the Challenge Cup, we are multiple winners and we will be going all out to make it a fourth Challenge Cup title.
“It’s a very exciting pool to be in with some big European sides. You have a link in Jamie Roberts returning to his old club Cardiff Blues which will be anticipated even though we are still a while away from the tournament.”
Mick Hogan – Newcastle Falcons Managing Director
“We know a lot about Brive having played them six times in the past and this will be the third season in a row we’ve been drawn with an eastern European team. The big question is will we be sent to Siberia to face Enisei-STM?
“We’ve heard they are looking at playing their home games either in Sochi, where the Russians hosted the Winter Olympics, or Siberia. It is going to be exciting to break new ground and it will be an interesting logistical exercise for us.
“One thing I do know, having recruited some Russian players during my time at Sale Sharks, is that the Enisei-STM team will be fully of big, tough and physically strong players. They did well to qualify for the Challenge Cup and I can see them upsetting one of two teams.”
2015/16 Champions Cup pools
Pool 1: Saracens, Ulster Rugby, Toulouse, Oyonnax
Pool 2: ASM Clermont Auvergne, Ospreys, Exeter Chiefs, Bordeaux-Begles
Pool 3: Glasgow Warriors, Northampton Saints, Racing 92, Scarlets
Pool 4: Stade Francais Paris, Munster Rugby, Leicester Tigers, Benetton Treviso
Pool 5: Bath Rugby, RC Toulon, Leinster Rugby, Wasps
2015/16 Challenge Cup pools
Pool 1: Connacht Rugby, Brive, Newcastle Falcons, Enisei-STM
Pool 2: Sale Sharks, Newport Gwent Dragons, Castres Olympique, Pau
Pool 3: Montpellier, Harlequins, Cardiff Blues, Cammi Rugby Calvisano
Pool 4: La Rochelle, Gloucester Rugby, Zebre Rugby, Worcester Warriors
Pool 5: Edinburgh Rugby, London Irish, Grenoble, Agen
2015/16 Tournament weekends
Round 1: 12/13/14/15 November
Round 2: 19/20/21/22 November
Round 3: 10/11/12/13 December
Round 4: 17/18/19/20 December
Round 5: 14/15/16/17 January 2016
Round 6: 21/22/23/24 January 2016
Quarter-finals: 7/8/9/10 April 2016
Semi-finals: 22/23/24 April 2016
Finals: 13/14 May 2016