Heineken Cup: Glasgow face Toulon test

GLASGOW have been handed arguably the toughest opening match ever faced by a Scottish team in Heineken Cup – holders and the wealthiest of star-studded teams, Toulon, in the south of France.

Glasgow Warriors' Niko Matawalu in action during the Heineken Cup last year against Northampton Saints. Picture: PA

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend has welcomed today’s draw, which will mean a Sunday 4pm start to their campaign against the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Bryan Habana. The draw also hands the Warriors a first home match the following Sunday against Exeter, a club closely associated with his elder brother Craig and a clutch of Scottish players, back-to-back matches with Cardiff in December. Glasgow finish their pool campaign away to Exeter and then at home to Toulon, the recent Heineken Cup and French Top 14 champions steered to those successes by ERC European Player of the Year Wilkinson.

“We’re all very excited about starting our Heineken Cup campaign away to the defending champions,” said Townsend. A full interview will feature in tomorrow’s Scotsman.

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Edinburgh supporters are still awaiting news on who will lead them into the new season with the SRU having delayed a decision on the new coaching team for four months as they track South African Alan Solomons, but still with no confirmation of the former Springboks assistant’s agreement to take the reins.

That leaves Steve Scott in interim charge and preparing for a European campaign that opens at Murrayfield, against Munster. Edinburgh face the Irishmen at Murrayfield on Saturday, 12 October with a 1.35pm kick-off, a match that will be live on Sky and one which supporters will be hoping does not bring a repeat of last season’s opening Sky game, a 40-0 drubbing at the hands of Saracens.

Edinburgh are away to France in their second match, heading further south to Perpignan, and a reunion with former flanker and recent Scotland tour matchwinner Alasdair Strokosch on Sunday 20 October, 1.45pm kick-off. That game is not being covered live by Sky, and neither is Glasgow’s home match with Exeter the same day.

Edinburgh’s winter double-header is with Gloucester, starting at home on Sunday 8 December, 1pm, and again with no live TV, with the return at Kingsholm the following Sunday, 15 December, at 3pm live on Sky.

With the last two rounds of pool games still to be confirmed – the delay is due to broadcasters’ desires to see the outcome of the early games before choosing their games – that leaves five Sunday games for the Scottish teams, three for Edinburgh and two for the Warriors out of the first eight.

Elsewhere in the tournament, many eyes will turn to a heavyweight clash between Kelly Brown’s Saracens and Toulouse in Round Two, which will be staged at 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium on Friday, 18 October with notable Scots involved in a number of French teams this season, including Max Evans and Richie Gray at Castres, Jim Hamilton and Johnnie Beattie at Montpellier and Strokosch with the Catalans.

Leinster have moved their Round Four game against Northampton to the Aviva Stadium with the repeat of the dramatic 2011 tournament final set for Saturday, 14 December, and Cardiff will stage the first European club rugby match on an artificial pitch when they host Toulon at the new-look Arms Park in Round Two, followed by Saracens against Zebre in December.

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Scottish fixtures

Round One

Saturday 12 October: Edinburgh v Munster (Murrayfield, 1.35pm, Sky)

Sunday 13 October: Toulon v Glasgow (Stade Felix Mayol, 4pm)

Round Two

Sunday 20 October: Perpignan v Edinburgh (Stade Aime Giral, 1.45pm), Canal+); Glasgow v Exeter (Scotstoun, 2pm, no live TV)

Round Three

Friday 6 December: Cardiff v Glasgow (Cardiff Arms Park, Sky Sports)

Sunday 8 December: Edinburgh v Gloucester (Murrayfield, 1pm, no live TV)

Round Four

Friday 13 December: Glasgow v Cardiff (Scotstoun, 8pm, Sky Sports)

Sunday 15 December: Gloucester v Edinburgh (Kingsholm, 3pm, Sky Sports)

Round Five and Six (fixtures dates, times and broadcast agreements to be confirmed at a later date)

10/11/12 January: Exeter v Glasgow (Sandy Park); Edinburgh v Perpignan (Murrayfield)

17/18/19 January: Glasgow v Toulon (Scotstoun); Munster v Edinburgh (Thomond Park).