Higher seeding hardly helps Scots sides' Heineken hopes

EDINBURGH and Glasgow Warriors have each been handed tough draws in next year's Heineken Cup. With both sides being named amongst the third seeds in the draw for the first time ever, hopes were high that Scotland's representatives could secure favourable draws in European club rugby's showpiece competition – but the hand has lined them up against two of the tougher fourth seed sides in the competition and has ensured that making it through the group stage is once again going to be a

Edinburgh are the only Scottish team ever to have reached the quarter-finals. That was back in 2004, and the six years since then have been characterised by broken dreams and bitter disappointment.

At yesterday's draw in Cardiff, Edinburgh were dropped into what looks on paper to be the slightly easier group. They will play 2009 semi-finalists Cardiff Blues, the 2000 champions Northampton Saints and French side Castres Olympique.

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Glasgow, meanwhile, have been lined up to play reigning champions Toulouse (who will be aiming for a remarkable fifth title in only the 15th year the competition has run), and two times champions London Wasps.

Ironically, given the calibre of their other opponents, Warriors fans will probably dread their team's two matches against the fourth side in the group, the Dragons, most. They have come to be viewed as something of a bogey team in recent years.

In fact Glasgow's record against the Welshmen is not all that bad. The two sides have been paired together in the past two Heineken Cups, during which time they have shared the spoils, and honours are also even in the Magners League during that time. But games against the Welshmen are always tough encounters, and given the importance of picking up an away win in order to have any real chance of making it out of the group stage, the games against the Dragons have the potential to be unbearably tight affairs.

Conversely, the trip to Toulouse will spark all sorts of magical feelings for the men from the west. That was the site of their greatest ever European performance in 2009, when a display of breathtaking audacity set up a famous 33-26 victory. That match is widely recognised as a key moment in the development of this squad into the dominant force in the Scottish pro game.

"We want to be testing ourselves against the best and in the group we've got we can definitely do that," said Glasgow captain Al Kellock, speaking from the national team's training base in Argentina.

"We are under no illusions that Toulouse will be massive favourites from our group. They are the current champions and best team in Europe and playing at their ground is a fantastic experience. But 2009, when we won at Toulouse, was a real high point over the last few seasons and everybody is really excited about the opportunity to go back there and also face Toulouse at Firhill.

"Wasps are another of Europe's real big clubs. They are huge in European terms and that's the sort of team that you want to compete against. We know the Dragons really well. Both teams will be happy to see each other again."

Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat, suggested that he couldn't see how Edinburgh could ask for a better group.

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"There's no such thing as an easy or favourable pool but Cardiff are a team we know well and are a team we have a good record against, home and away, so we know what we're facing," he said.

"Northampton are a tough side but, like Edinburgh, are a team that likes to play rugby. Franklin's Gardens is a good place for us to go and play though I don't think they'll relish playing at Murrayfield.

"Castres are the one French team Edinburgh have beaten away from home (in the 2008-9 Heineken Cup] and are a team we know – but they've improved a lot this season.

"What's positive is that we were drawn in tier three for the first time but we have to move up from there and get into tier two to improve our draw.

"To do that we've got to repeat last season's home form (Edinburgh won three from three at home] in this competition and pick up away wins, which we're capable of doing."