The Racing Bomb

There might be the small matter of a LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIONS tour going on right now (almost literally), but there is a big event this afternoon – the HEC draw. [Aside: does this mean it’s going ahead?]

Everyone in Ireland has their beady eyes fixed on one foreign team in particular – Parisian toffs Racing Metro 92. Heart-broken Leinster and Munster fans are already planning tear-soaked pilgrimages to La Defense (but you can see it from the Arc de Triomphe – how can it take an hour to walk there!) to pay homage to lost icons J-Sex and Rog.

However, be careful what you wish for – because of the awkward rules of the HEC pool draw, drawing Racing Metro virtually ensures an absolute bee-atch of a draw. Here’s why:

  • Racing Metro are the lowest (European) ranked French side in the draw – that means they must be drawn with another bunch of garlic-munching surrender monkeys
  • They cannot be paired with newly-crowned Bouclier de Brennus owners Castres, as they are also bottom-dwelling Pool 4 losers
  • They also cannot be paired with Perpignan – Perpignan are in Pool 2 – each pool must contain an English team, and there are none in Pools 1 and 3

This means that if Racing Metro are to be paired with one of Ulster, Munster and Leinster, the remaining French side outside Pool 1 will be joining them – owners of the meanest pack in Europe, Montpellier. Uh oh – not so much fun any more eh?

And to add cream to the top of that ugly-looking draw, the requirement for an English team in every pool means you will get the dubious pleasure of one of Leicester, Saracens, Harlequins or Northampton. Even if you strike relative jackpot there and get the Saints, a pool featuring away trips to Racing, Montpellier and Northampton virtually ensures a best possible outcome of an away quarter-final, and a more likely outcome of being dumped out in January.


There is a one in four chance of that scenario unfolding (one in twelve for each of Leinster, Munster and Ulster), so it’s still unlikely – but it’s a horrendous prospect, fun away trips aside.

The big sharks to avoid, in WoC’s opinion, are Leicester in Tier 2 and Ospreys in Tier 3.  Leicester are newly restored to their rightful place as English Boshiership Champioons, and it is our opinion that they’ve been a touch short of good fortune in recent years in Europe, enduring some sticky draws and poorly timed injuries.  A patchy recent record masks their impressive quality, though a heavy load with the Lions might make the early part of the season difficult for them. Ospreys continue to be enigmatic, but there’s always the danger that they’ll get their act together, or even just time their best performances to coincide with facing the team you support and do some real damage.

Full list of pools:

Tier 1 – Leinster Rugby, Toulon, Toulouse, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Ulster Rugby, Munster Rugby

Tier 2 – Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Cardiff Blues, Saracens, Leicester Tigers, Perpignan

Tier 3 – Edinburgh Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors, Montpellier, Connacht Rugby

Tier 4 – Gloucester Rugby, Castres Olympique, Racing Metro 92, Exeter Chiefs, Benetton Treviso, Zebre

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  1. Len

     /  June 5, 2013

    Lads I think your over selling Montpellier a bit. They only managed five away wins all season (four of those against the bottom four teams and with tight enough score lines) and had the worst positive points difference in the Top 14. As a Leinster fan I’d take them over Glasgow, Osperys or Scarlets and Edinburgh (really don’t want Edinburgh)

    • Really?! Scarlets or Edinburgh?!
      You remember our difficulty beating the, particularly away in 2011/12?
      They’ve player the quality of Gorgodze, Martin, Ouderago, Figallo, Beattie, Trin Duch, Paillague and have added the likes of TchaleWatchou (that Perpignan monster), Hamilton, Olivier, Floch, Timani, Tuitavake for next year. A powerful team.

  2. I reckon Glasgow from pool 3 would be an even worse draw than Ospreys. Over in the west we just want to avoid Quins for a change…

  3. Yossarian

     /  June 5, 2013

    There will be a “pool of death” just because one group always gets dubbed that but when you see the French league winners as a fourth seed you can see how.not complaining about the ranking system which is by and large just,but how Connacht are ranked above French champions creates the anomaly that gives you odd pools.happy to be avoiding Claremont.

    • Castres have been gutted (losing some of their best players and their management) – they also have never shown an interest in the Heineken Cup. The away trip will be no cake-walk but I wouldn’t massively fear them.

  4. With Biarritz out of it (and Blanco’s guarantee with it), that means someone else can now get Zebre.
    Cardiff,Edinburgh,Zebre is clearly the pool you want to get if you are in Tier 1.

    • Just was reminded you need an English team in your pool: Scarlets, Edinburgh, Gloucester so.

      • toro toro

         /  June 5, 2013

        Only Clermont, Toulouse, or Toulon could have drawn any of those groups, though; there must always be one non-Racing French side in each pool, too.

  5. About as good a draw as could be expected for Connacht, 2 big paydays and Zebre for a chance to get 3 wins like this year, which let’s face it is the summit of our ambitions.

    Leinster got a hard group (with all the glamour of an episode of Antiques Roadshow) but you’d still expect them to top their group.

    God help Ulster,

    Munster players should make sure they all have Euromillions tickets for Friday.

  6. Dave W

     /  June 5, 2013

    And Racing are in with Clermont and Harlequins, with the Scarlets likely taking bottom spot there. That’s one serious group. You’d fear for the Scarlets there.

    Leinster and Ulster get pretty tough groups – Ulster especially – with Munster getting as nice as could be hoped for with a stroll into a home quarter final.

  7. Three very tough pools and two very easy ones. Munster and Toulon should be securing home draws for the quarters. What odds a Munster-Leinster quarter final?

    For Leinster, with a new coach, losing key players to transfers and the inevitable Lions injuries/fatigue, the fixture list will be just as important as the group. For me, the ideal calendar would seem to be Northampton at home and Ospreys away in Rounds one and two, then a Castres double-header in December, with the home game first. (beat Castres at home and they are their for the taking away, with a depleted squad and having lost their excellent management). If we could get 15 points out of the first 4 games, we would be nicely set up.

    • Really good point – the fixtures were essentially perfect for Ulster last year (Castres away last) but they screwed up the Saints home game

      • It’ll likely be Northampton in the double header to get the pre Xmas Aviva game in.

        • Mightn’t be so bad to play Castres early at home: they will be equally as disrupted as us and do not travel well in H Cup. We could then go to Castres in January and, if they were already out, really hope to do some damage (with the caveat of the loss there 5 years ago). Northampton away will be very tough. They have made a couple of good signings. Either way, cassoulet and gaillac tastes best in the cold winter months.

  8. Spice

     /  June 5, 2013

    Think people may be under-estimatig Munster’s group a little. While uit is clearly one of the easier pools Munter havent been their convincing selve this season (bar 2-3 performances). They already made toughh going of Edinburgh away in the HC this season. Perpignan are better than their standing in the top14 and were impressive at times in the Amlin this year. Gloucester are Gloucester and will always play as hard as they can.
    Not saying that Munster shouldnt top the pool, I just dont think it wil be the cake-walk that people might be expecting.

    • Yossarian

       /  June 5, 2013

      form changes and some squads can go on and disappoint when you expect them to be more competitive while others perform above what you would expect but at this point that is one of the nicest draws you could hope for as a Munster fan.
      Edinburgh can’t be as bad as they were this year but you would prefer them to Glasgow/ospreys etc. Perpignan are decent on their day but the level of interest from most of the french clubs means if you have the away game late in the pool its not too tough and Gloucster have a soft pack which prevents them being more competitive in Europe(connacht were a Flavin missed tackle away from beating them away).

  9. Just catching up having been without computer for a while. Now I know who to blame for Ulster getting Leicester and Montpellier! Relieved not to get Racing but Benetton are not the bunnies some loons are suggesting. Ulster will need to be on top form to get out of that group.

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