TOP seed Leinster have drawn the one club they didn’t want, Clermont-Auvergne, as well as The Scarlets and Exeter Chiefs, in Pool Five as they plan to become the first club to win three straight Heineken Cups.
Coach Joe Schmidt’s former club, surprisingly beaten by Toulon in the French Top-14 championship last weekend, will be driven to overturn the champions as they focus on their own double next season.
“Vern Cotter and Joe Schmidt will be getting tired of playing each other. This is the fourth year we have been drawn together,” said Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson.
“We know The Scarlets well. We play them regularly enough in the PRO12. Exeter will be an interesting challenge. They have earned their place from the English Premiership”.
The reigning champions were first out of the hat, quickly joined by the French club, a familiar foe in PRO12 Welsh club The Scarlets and a new and interesting proposition in Exeter Chiefs.
The south-west of England club are currently captained by second row forward Tommy Hayes, the younger brother of Ireland legendary prop John.
Two-time winners Munster and their new coach Rod Penney have been pitched into Pool One where they will have to handle this year’s semi-finalists Edinburgh, 2011 English champions Saracens and heavyweight French club Racing Metro.
This year’s finalists Ulster will be able to renew rivalry with Northampton Saints, the club that knocked them out of the 2011 play-offs, Glasgow Warriors and up-and-coming French force Castres Olympique in Pool Four.
In Pool Three, second time participants Connacht will do battle with Biarritz Olympique, Conor O’Shea’s English champion Harlequins, who were knocked out of this year’s competition by virtue of their defeat at The Sportsground, and the new Italian club Zebre.