Please don’t be Clermont

Next season’s HEC draw has been tortuous completed in Dublin today – the myriad of rules confused just about everybody, including us, but its finished, and here’s what the heated balls threw up:

Pool 1: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro 92

Pool 2: Toulouse, Leicester, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso

Pool 3: Biarritz, Harlequins, Connacht, Zebre

Pool 4: Northampton, Ulster, Glasgow Warriors, Castres

Pool 5: Leinster, Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter

Pool 6: Cardiff Blues, Toulon, Sale, Montpellier

What’s the immediate reaction? Let’s start with the Irish perspective:

  • Ulster: got a dream draw after last season’s shocker. The home games should all be won, Castres are bunnies who won’t care (though better to visit them later in the schedule than earlier), and one other away win will guarantee a home QF
  • Connacht: will be happy. Biarritz aren’t what they used to be, Quins have already shown that they weren’t comfortable facing Connacht and Zebre didn’t exist last Friday. They will be targeting 3 wins here
  • Munster: are relieved. While that pool is tricky, it certainly could have been worse i.e. had Clermont in it. Embra and Racing Metro are beatable, albeit potentially difficult away from Thomond. Sarries at home is already a must-win game, and could be decided under the Owens-Poite paradigm
  • Leinster: will be disappointed. Aim number one was to avoid Clermont and they didn’t. Llanelli and Exeter need to be 4 wins for Leinster to qualify. Two teams could go through here, but neither with a home qf

And what else do we think:

  • Toulon will be happy – that pool sets them up for a real run at the HEC – they’ll be expecting at least a home quarter-final
  • Leicester got another stinker – for the 6th year in a row they’ll be in a three-way dogfight after 2012 (Clermont, Ulster), 2011 (Perpignan, Scarlets), 2010 (Clermont, Ospreys), 2009 (Perpignan, Ospreys) and 2008 (Toulouse, Leinster). For all Richard Cockerill’s moaning, they haven’t had it easy

On the away trips front, Leinster and Connacht got the best draws of the Irish sides – cycling and Clermont fans in Clermont-Ferrand and some surfing day-trips and beer in Exeter will go down very well in D4 thanks, and surfing and wine in the Basque country and a trip to Italia will suffice in Galway. Munster have some capital cities to go to (conspiracy!) – no three day boat trips and wading through moats of molten lava to get to the South of France this year, and Ulster will have the delights of … er …. chatting with locals in bars.

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3 Comments

  1. Clermont…can’t wait. Mouthwatering grudge revenge match!!

  2. Amiga500

     /  June 13, 2012

    From the perspective of a Nordie… happy days… or at least, satisfaction that we could have done a helluva lot worse! If we’re to see ourselves as genuine emerging challengers for league and/or Europe, we simply have to expect to get out of that group, anything else would be a regression.

  3. The challenge for Connacht this year is to avoid second season syndrome. Avoiding the likes of Toulouse, Clermont and Exeter was imperative this time round.

    Connacht’s pool is (on paper) not as tough as last year, thanks to Connacht being ranked tier 3 and getting the team that looks to be the weakest in the tournament as the tier 4 pick. (You know, the team that is destined to be in the HEC every year come what may *sigh*)

    1 win out of 6 last year was still enough to allow Connacht fans to spin our first HEC attempt as a success, but that won’t be good enough this time. A single slip up could well lead to disappointment. Many will expect home and away wins against Zebre, although it’s worth remembering Connacht never managed to win away to their previous incarnation. Harlequins hold no fear, but will come with a lot of revenge on their minds. In fact, there will be so much revenge on their minds they will go all out to point out that they’re not thinking of revenge at all.

    Much was made out of the Connacht losing streak last year, but Connacht have had a pattern of positive starts and finishes bookending a poor run. This season is well documented, but the 2010/11 season featured a run of a single victory in 11 Magners League games, and 1 win, 1 draw in 10 matches in 2009/2010.

    Connacht’s problem will be this recurring mid season dip coincides with the HEC pool stages, there will be no room for respite.

    Although my biggest worry is how I’ll look in a skin tight wet suit as I learn how to surf. Biarritz here we come.

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