Heineken Cup: Edinburgh and Glasgow confident despite daunting openers
THE Scottish professional teams already knew the extent of the hills they will have to climb to achieve success in the new season’s Heineken Cup, but the revealing of a fixture list that sends the Warriors to Northampton in their opening match and brings Saracens to Edinburgh has brought a fresh and daunting reality to it.
New Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend was intrigued by the prospect of locking horns with old clubs Northampton and Castres after the summer draw, but he admitted yesterday that the discovery that he would be leading his team to Franklin’s Gardens for his first Heineken Cup match as coach on Sunday, 14 October, with back-to-back games against the French side in December, had only lifted anticipation for the new season. Underlining the quality of the competition, the other team in the Glasgow pool is Ulster, who beat Edinburgh in last season’s semi-final before losing to Leinster in their first final since winning the cup in 1999.
Townsend said: “We’re facing finalists from the past two years as well as one of the leading clubs in the French Top 14, so we know the quality that we’ll be up against. But we know we’ll receive incredible backing from our supporters at home and that will be a huge boost to our efforts in pushing through the group stages.”
There is no doubt he believes his squad have the ability to upset the more fancied sides and claim a first quarter-final spot, and it is the same in Edinburgh where the players welcomed the news with confidence that they will meet Saracens and Scotland No 8 Kelly Brown in their opening match, to be played on Saturday, 13 October, with an early afternoon kick-off. After steering his club to the semi-finals in his first season, Michael Bradley knows there will be heightened expectation ahead of the 2012-13 campaign, but he is happy to take that on in an incredible pool featuring Munster and Racing Metro, who were shocked by double defeats by the Scots last season, alongside Sarries.
“We’re very proud of what the club and our supporters achieved in last season’s Heineken Cup,” said the coach. “Our task now is to plan with the same precision our assault on the 2012-13 competition.
“Saracens finished third in the Aviva Premiership last season and have an abundance of quality international players, not least Kelly Brown. Munster have a fantastic Heineken Cup pedigree. They have won the competition twice before and regard Thomond Park as a fortress. And that [Murrayfield win over Racing Metro] was a truly memorable occasion. While the odds would suggest that lightning would not strike twice, I know that the ‘never say die’ attitude of our players won’t change.”
The performance of Edinburgh in particular last season has ensured increased TV interest with all the first four games covered by Sky TV and, unsurprisingly, Sky have also taken the rights for Edinburgh’s home match with Racing, after missing out on the 48-47 thriller last season.
Sat 13 Oct: Saracens (H), 1:35pm
Sun 21 Oct: Munster (A), 12:45pm
Sat 8 Dec: Racing Metro (A), 7pm
Fri 14 Dec: Racing Metro (H), 8pm
11/12/13 Jan*: Munster (H)
18/19/20 Jan*: Saracens (A)
Sun 14 Oct: Northampton (A), 12:45pm
Fri 19 Oct: Ulster (H), 8pm
Fri 7 Dec: Castres (H), 7:35pm
Sun 16 Dec: Castres (A), 1:45pm
11/12/13 Jan*: Ulster (A)
18/19/20 Jan*: Northampton (H)
*dates to be confirmed
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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