Reaction from inside the Leinster camp to the Champions Cup pool draw.

The first ever pool draw for the European Rugby Champions Cup took place in Neuchatel in Switzerland this afternoon, with Leinster drawn into pool two with Castres Olympique, Harlequins and London Wasps. You can see the full draw for the Champions Cup pool stage here

After the draw, Leinster Rugby CEO Mick Dawson had this to say: 

“Like everyone else I tuned in and watched the draw for the European Rugby Champions Cup as it unfolded and we are all now looking forward to the new season and putting all the doubt and the issues surrounding the competition and its future behind us.
“The five pools certainly make for interesting viewing and from a Leinster Rugby point of view the encouraging thing is that we have relatively recent history with all three clubs in Pool 2 so we know just how big a task lies ahead.
“We obviously had the two massive battles against Castres last year in the Heineken Cup. The home fixture was a good win but the away performance in Castres later in the year when we fell two tries behind very early on was a massive test of character that Matt and the players responded to admirably. Days like that stood to our lads as the season wore on.

“Castres have had a very good season domestically since then and were pipped at the posts by the best team in Europe this year. They will be very eager to get back into the swing of things again.
“Two trips to London is a big ask certainly. We only played London Wasps the season before last in the Quarter-Final of the Amlin Cup. That really was a fantastic game of rugby, played in the right spirit by two entertaining sides but a lot has changed in both clubs since then. They have finished the year very strongly and stood up brilliantly to Stade Francais in the European Play-Offs.
“I suppose Harlequins are the big unknown in that there is no very recent history but we all recall fondly our last trip to ‘Quins and that epic encounter which we won by the narrowest of margins. They are a top four Aviva Premiership side with an excellent and highly regarded coach in Conor O’Shea.
“Matt and the lads are entitled to enjoy their break after a successful season of PRO12 and B&I Cup wins but knowing Matt and the players I am sure that thoughts for next season won’t be too far away from their minds on the back of the draw today.”

Leinster hooker Sean Cronin was also a keen viewer of the draw and commented as follows:

“Usually there’s only one group of death, but they all look tough pools. We’ve got two trips to London which all the boys will be looking forward to. Hopefully there are a few Irish living in London who fancy coming along and giving us their support, as they did at Northampton last season.

“We had Castres Olympique in that pool as well. We played poorly at home and just squeezed out the win but did well out there when we knew it was do-or-die for qualifying.

“But they have since reached a second Top14 final in a row so that says everything about their strength. They may not be the first French team people talk about, but you don’t reach two finals in a row and win the title without being a top-quality team.

“We were disappointed with ourselves last season. We work so hard to progress from a pool that including Northampton, Castres and Ospreys and then felt we let ourselves down in the quarter-final at Toulon.

“Leinster have a proud tradition in Europe and it will be a huge focus for us next season. We are judged on winning trophies and it was great to lift the PRO12 title and send everyone off for the summer break with a huge boost but we want to prove ourselves again in Europe next season, even though it will be strange not to have Leo and Brian on the pitch.”

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