Leinster renew rivalry with French giants Clermont
IT has become one of European club rugby's great rivalries and another instalment of the Leinster v Clermont Auvergne saga was guaranteed yesterday when they were drawn in the same pool for next season's Heineken Cup.
The teams have met in each of the last three seasons, with the Irish province having the edge so far.
For Joe Schmidt, it is another chance to renew rivalries with his old friend and former mentor Vern Cotter, under whom he served at Clermont as backs coach.
The heavyweight duo are joined in Pool 5 by the Scarlets and Exeter Chiefs, who will be making their debut. It will give Leinster manager Guy Easterby a chance to get one over his brother Simon, who has been appointed Scarlets coach.
"I'm on my stag with him this weekend, so I'm not looking forward to that now," the elder Easterby joked yesterday.
"Scarlets will be very, very tough to play against. They have a lot of good young Welsh players and a new coaching set-up, so they will be hoping to make a good impression.
"It is a tough group for all of us, having Clermont in there, while Exeter have been fantastic since coming into the (English) Premiership."
Munster will have a reunion with former scrum-half Michael Bradley, whose Edinburgh team will be hoping to repeat their run to last season's semi-final. New coach Rob Penney's side will also face last year's English champions Saracens and France's Racing Metro in Pool 1.
Ulster won't be fazed by being drawn against Northampton Saints, Glasgow Warriors and Castres, while Connacht have been handed a re-match with old foes Harlequins -- whose run they ended last season -- along with Challenge Cup winners Biarritz and Italian newcomers Zebre.
Pool 1: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro
Pool 2: Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso
Pool 3: Biarritz, Harlequins, Connacht, Zebre
Pool 4: Northampton, Ulster, Glasgow Warriors, Castres
Pool 5: Leinster, Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter Chiefs
Pool 6: Cardiff Blues, Toulon, Sale Sharks, Montpellier
DATES -- Round 1: October 12-14, 2012. Rd 2: October 19-21
Rd 3: December 7-9. Rd4: December 14-16. Rd 5: January 11-13, 2013. Rd 6: January 18-20.
Quarter-finals: April 5-7. Semi-finals: April 26-28
Amlin Challenge Cup final: RDS, Friday, May 17 (8.0)
Heineken Cup final: Aviva Stadium, Saturday, May 18 (5.0)