This year's HEC draw has taken place and Connacht have been drawn in a really exciting and promising group.
Harlequins, the current English Premiership Champions, are one of Connacht's long rivals in European competitions with the two sides having met many times in the Amlin Challenge Cup, before facing off in Connacht's opening HEC season last year. The two sides came out of the clashes with one victory apiece, each side winning their home match. Quins will no doubt see this as a chance to avenge that defeat, which knocked them out of the running for qualification from the group.
Zebre are the new Italian side replacing the now defunct Aironi club. Their name comes from an old Italian invitational touring side and they will be hoping that they (under the direct control of the Italian union) will be able to use that history as a stepping stone for the future. No doubt they will come out swinging, but a brand new Italian side who will be only finding their feet this year is a very good draw for Connacht.
The big draw for this year is the French club Biarritz, the current Amlin Challenge Cup champions. They are a star-studded side with plenty of history and real thoroughbred of their domestic game. However Biarritz finished 9th in the Top 14 this year, and so they may well be focused on improving on that front this season, perhaps taking their eyes off the prize in Europe. The Connacht Clan will surely be rallying the troops for another French invasion this year, and if Biarritz expect an easy game we are sure to prove them wrong.
So an exciting second season of Heineken Cup rugby looms ahead for Connacht with visits to the Basque town of Biarritz in South-West France, our old friends at The Stoop in Twickenham and our new friends in Parma, Italy. Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll try to pull together information for those looking to travel independently to any of these destinations. No doubt there will also be updates from Connacht Rugby in relation to organised trips via their official travel partner which are a useful if costly option for the less seasoned rugby traveller.
Excited already? Join the discussion in the forum.
2012/13 Heineken Cup Pool Draw
- Pool 1: Munster Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby, Saracens, Racing Metro 92
- Pool 2: Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso
- Pool 3: Biarritz Olympique, Harlequins, Connacht Rugby, Zebre
- Pool 4: Northampton Saints, Ulster Rugby, Glasgow Warriors, Castres Olympique
- Pool 5: Leinster Rugby, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter Chiefs
- Pool 6: Cardiff Blues, RC Toulon, Sale Sharks, Montpellier
2012/13 Heineken Cup Dates
Round 1 12/13/14 October 2012
Round 2 19/20/21 October 2012
Round 3 7/8/9 December 2012
Round 4 14/15/16 December 2012
Round 5 11/12/13 January 2013
Round 6 18/19/20 January 2013
Quarter-finals 5/6/7 April 2013
Semi-finals 26/27/28 April 2013
Dublin 2013 European club rugby finals
Amlin Challenge Cup final - RDS, Friday, 17 May 2013 (8.00pm)
Heineken Cup final - Aviva Stadium, Saturday, 18 May 2013 (5.00pm)