Northampton, Ospreys et Treviso, the future adversaries of Racing Metro 92 in the new European Cup
Today in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) the pool draw took place for the future European competition, the European Rugby Champions Cup. The Ciel et Blanc, qualified as a second tier team thanks to finishing in fourth place in the TOP 14, have drawn a very mixed pool with teams from English, Wales and Italy.
To be precise, Northampton Saints, who recently won the final of the English Premiership, who also qualified after winning the Amlin Challenge Cup and who count no fewer than eight players currently on tour with England in New Zealand; the Ospreys, the Swansea-based Welsh side; and Italy's top team, Benetton Treviso a side which regularly supplies the Italian XV with half its players.
For Dimitri Szarzewski, the Ciel et Blanc captain, in this new competition where the number of participating teams has come down from 24 to 20, Pool 5 is anything but an easy ride. "On paper, it is perhaps not as tough as some other pools, but yout always have to be careful because the competition is bound to be even stiffer this year," he said.
Northampton is after all the reigning English champion, and it will be a huge challenge for us," continues Szarzewski. "We know the Ospreys, it is a team which likes to play a lot of rugby. As for the Italians from Treviso, we know their performances in the European Cup, they are a difficult team to handle and many teams have come to grief playing against them."
Neverthless, Dimitri admits he is pleased to be in a pool with no other French teams. "For a player, it's always more agreeable not to come up against another TOP 14 side," he concludes. "On top of that, I am sure our four Welshmen will be thrilled to be going to Wales and playing in front of a Welsh crowd."
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Saturday 26th August