Glasgow rivals happy with Heineken draw
TWO OF Glasgow’s Heineken Cup opponents for next season have declared themselves happy with the draw, insisting that it could have been much worse.
The Warriors have been drawn in Pool 4 with Northampton and Ulster, finalists in the past two years, the top seeds – as well as French side Castres, who reached the Top 14 semi-finals this year and feature Scotland internationalist Max Evans in their ranks.
Ulster’s Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he was relieved to miss some of the tournament high-flyers drawn together in Pools Two and Five. “On the whole we are happy with the draw. It could have been better and it could have been worse. There are two very difficult pools and there are a couple of pools which are probably a little bit easier. All four teams will probably look at our pool and think they have a realistic chance of progressing,” he said. “We know Glasgow really well from our league meetings and there is no doubt they are a team who are evolving and have shown dramatic improvement.
“The top teams have shown that, to win competitions like the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12, you have to build sustained success over a period of time. You see teams making the knockout stages one season but then they can’t get out of their group the following year.
“The challenge for us is to be consistently making the last eight. If we want to win the Heineken Cup, we’ve got to be qualifying from our group every year and get more experience playing in big matches.”
Ulster will be coached by New Zealander Mark Anscombe next season and Humphreys made it clear that reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals for a third year in succession will be a key goal for the new man.
Northamptons Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder, meanwhile, insisted that he was wary of the Scots, even if he didn’t yet know where they will play next season, but he agreed with Humphreys that this pool could be the most competitive and open as to who qualifies.
“Glasgow is a team which is improving year after year,” he said. “They came fourth in the PRO12 table and finished second in a Heineken Cup pool which included Leinster and Montpellier, and with a number of international players in their squad they will be hard to beat, especially at Firhill [Glasgow have moved to Scotstoun].”
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