GLASGOW Warriors have been drawn in the same pool as reigning champions Toulon in next season’s Heineken Cup Pool stages.
Edinburgh, who reached the semi-finals of the tournament in 2011, are in Pool 6, along with Gloucester, Munster and Perpignan. Glasgow will also take on Cardiff Blues and Exeter Chiefs in Pool 2.
Gregor Townsend’s side, who finished third in the RaboPro12, have never managed to progress to the knockout phase of Europe’s premier tournament.
Townsend, who played in France with Montpellier, Castres and Brive, is looking forward to the campaign and believes the home match with Toulon will be a special occasion.
“Toulon have got a world-class team and they’ve built a global reputation on who they’ve signed and the passion of their supporters, so I can’t wait, it will be a cracking game at Scotstoun,” he told the club website.
“I’ve played at the Stade Mayol twice in my career and they were definitely highlights. It was an experience and atmosphere like no other at club level. The pitch is great, it’s very quick, the weather is usually beautiful and the crowd are fantastic.
“You want to take on the best players in the world in the best environments you can play in.
“I have a bit of a soft spot for Exeter. My brother played for them and he still lives down there so I’ve tracked their progress very closely. They’ve built a fantastic club off the field and they’ve recruited very well.
“They’ve had their first year of European experience and will be much better for that. They almost beat Leinster away and were in a pool with Clermont, so they’ll have learnt a lot from those game.”
Edinburgh’s interim head coach Stevie Scott said the draw was “tough but exciting”.
“It’s three teams who have proud home records but, if we can get our home performances right, we can move forward,” he told his club’s website. Physically, we need to be bigger and stronger than we were last season. This is the big stage. From the quarter finals through to the final, it’s close to Test match rugby, that’s how physical it is.
“The Heineken Cup is massive. It’s such a great experience for players and staff.”
Meanwhile, Scott’s side yesterday welcomed five new faces to be aligned to the club through the national elite development programme (EDP) for top young talent. The set-up, which will associate a further 11 players to Glasgow Warriors and three to Scotland 7s, has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the capital, with Scotland caps Matt Scott and Grant Gilchrist among the recent graduates to earn senior international honours.
Joining the programme this season are Melrose stand-off Bruce Dick, prop Ewan McQuillin and centre Chris Auld, both Gala, and Scotland under-18 forwards Magnus Bradbury, of
Merchiston Castle school and Neil Irvine-Hess, of George Watson’s College.
The EDP group at Edinburgh is completed by returning scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Heriot’s), who is currently in New Zealand as part of the Macphail scholarship, hooker George Turner (Heriot’s) and Edinburgh Accies pair Alex Allan (prop) and Hamish Watson (back-row).
Glasgow Warriors, meanwhile, have seven new faces on the development scheme. Ayr stand-off Finn Russell, who is also in New Zealand as part of the Macphail Scholarship, Stirling County No 8 Adam Ashe, Currie hooker Fergus Scott and prop George Hunter, of Ayr,
remain from last season.
On board for the first time are Sale Sharks flanker Will Bordill, scrum-half Ali Price, from Bedford Blues, Ayr full-back Gavin Lowe, winger Rory Hughes, from Stirling County, Dundee centre Jack Steele and lock Andrew Redmayne, and prop Darcy Rae from Ayr.
All elite development players will benefit from training with the professional squads as well as one-to-one guidance and support from a variety of specialist coaches.
Full pool draw for 2013-14 Heineken Cup:
POOL ONE: Leinster, Northampton Saints, Ospreys, Castres Olympique
POOL TWO: Toulon, Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors, Exeter Chiefs
POOL THREE: Toulouse, Saracens, Connacht, Zebre
POOL FOUR: Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins, Scarlets, Racing Metro
POOL FIVE: Ulster, Leicester Tigers, Montpellier, Treviso
POOL SIX: Munster, Perpignan, Edinburgh Rugby, Gloucester Rugby