Irish trio avoid pool clash with french big guns
LEINSTER, Munster and Ulster will avoid Heineken Cup champions Toulon and finalists Clermont Auvergne in the pool stages of next year's competition, writes Ruaidhri O'Connor.
The Irish provinces make up half of the top seeds ahead of next month's draw, with Toulouse the sixth. The news will come as a relief for Leinster in particular after they faced Clermont in the pool stages this season, losing both games and ultimately exiting before the quarter-finals.
Connacht were confirmed as Ireland's fourth participant yesterday, with French club Perpignan also making the tournament after the all-French final.
France and England will have six teams apiece in next year's tournament, while Ireland have four, Wales three and Scotland and Italy two apiece.
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson (above) was last night named European Player of the Year for his role in the French club's triumph.
Meanwhile, Ireland will tour Argentina at the end of next season. The tour will be Joe Schmidt's first as head coach and will be Ireland's first to South America since 2007.