Premiership sides ready for Europe

Date published: October 8 2014

The second launch of the European Champions Cup took place in London today at the Twickenham Stoop.

The second launch of the European Champions Cup took place in London today at the Twickenham Stoop.

Northampton, Saracens, Leicester, Harlequins, Bath, Sale and Wasps will provide the English challenge in the competition.

It will have been eight years since an English team last claimed Europe’s top prize, but the Premiership coaches were optimistic about the new competition.

Conor O’Shea (Harlequins Director of Rugby)

“It’s very exciting getting back into Europe and it is a huge boost for everyone at our club to be playing the first game in the new Champions Cup (against Castres).

“There will be a lot attention on it, it’s going to be exciting and it looks like being a great new tournament.

“Now that’s it here, and European rugby is back again, everyone’s delighted. It’s a massive emotional roller-coaster and you have to be very level the whole way through, but it doesn’t get much tougher to start with.

“It’s pretty frightening having to kick off against Castres Olympique. They’re a brilliant side – they’re Top 14 champions and losing finalists over the past two years, so what a massive game that’s going to be down here to start it off.

“They might have had an inconsistent start to the season but they beat Grenoble 51-10 last weekend.

“And you don’t have the size of squad they have, the size of player they have and the quality of the players they have and not be able to travel. It’s going to be ferocious.

“We always like playing the French sides because they play rugby, and they really do. They try and attack – people give this turgid view of the Top 14, but they don’t play like that, especially at Castres.

“We’ve played them a few times in pre-season over the years and we know the threats they have. All the French sides are tough to play against.”

Richard Cockerill (Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby)

“We certainly know how difficult it will be. We’ve struggled to get past [Ulster] in the last few years in Europe. Last year we were 10 points up with 20 minutes to go and we managed to lose by three and that cost us a home quarter-final.

“They’ve had some coaching changes and personnel changes over the summer, but Ulster are Ulster – just like Leicester are Leicester. On the big day, you know they’ll come up with the goods.

“We’ve got them first up at Welford Road and clearly we’ve not been in the best of form.

“We’ll need to make sure we’re right on it. We need to make sure we bring it with us for those big European days at Welford Road, and we’ll certainly need to bring it a week on Saturday.”

Mike Ford (Bath Rugby Director of Rugby)

“They’ve [Glasgow] not lost this season and three of those games have been won away from home. They’re obviously a tough side mentally to go away from home and win.

“They’ve got a very strong pack – a very strong scrummaging pack and a good driving pack. They give the backs good ball and Matalawu is a very, very good player and a very dangerous player.

“All across the park they’ve got threats and they’re playing with confidence. And it’s not just this year – they got to the final last year and the semi-finals the year before in the PRO12 and they’ve played in Europe for a good while now.

“This is our first season in the European Rugby Champions Cup for a while, so it’s a tough assignment.

“Having said that, it’s one we’re looking forward to. I don’t mind playing away from home because I love the challenge. On a wet and windy Saturday afternoon in Glasgow it will be great to see where we’re at against that sort of opposition.”

Matt Mullan (Wasps England prop)

“We had to work hard at the end of last season to earn the right to play in the European Rugby Champions Cup by beating Stade Francais Paris twice in the play-off games, so we will be going into the new tournament full of confidence and looking to enjoy ourselves.

“Those two wins really put a bit of gloss on our season and the win out in Paris was even better than the one at home. Stade were competing at the top end of the Top 14 last season and were a very good side.

“Every game in every pool is going to be hard this season and every pool is a tough one. There can be no better way for us as players to start our Champions Cup campaign in Dublin against a top side like Leinster.

“We pride ourselves at Wasps on our history in Europe, but we are a new group of players and we want to forge our own history in the new tournament.”