Ulster Rugby Chief Executive Shane Logan is excited that the Champions Cup draw has given the province the opportunity to host reigning European champions Toulon in Belfast.
EUROPEAN RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP - POOL 3:
Leicester Tigers ULSTER
Ulster were placed in Pool 3 of the new European Rugby Champions Cup during today's draw in Neuchatel, Switzerland. Standing between them and a spot in the knockout stages are Toulon and familiar foes Leicester Tigers and the Scarlets.
Ulster will be meeting Toulon for the first time, with the French giants having won the Heineken Cup for a second successive time last month with a 23-6 final defeat of Saracens.
The mouth-watering fixture at Kingspan Stadium will provide local fans with the opportunity to see some of the world's best players such as Matt Giteau, Bakkies Botha and European Player of the Year Steffon Amitage. Toulon have also recruited James O'Connor, Leigh Halfpenny and Mamuka Gorgodze for the 2014/15 campaign.
The Ulstermen have faced Leicester in two of the past three years in European competition, and will be hoping to repeat last season's results by registering both home and away wins.
Ulster Rugby Chief Executive Shane Logan described the draw as 'tough, achievable and very exciting', stating: "We knew it was going to be tough - with now only 20 teams in the competition it makes it harder all round. We want to play at the top level and we certainly will.
"I don't think we have anything to fear - I'm not underestimating the task but we're getting better at winning away from home in the big games. Last year we won away to Leicester and Montpellier."
Logan was particularly looking forward to welcoming Toulon to Belfast next season, dubbing it 'a magnificent fixture'.
"It's mouth-watering. We believe we have, perhaps, Europe's best stadium and we want to have Europe's best teams playing at it. That's the beauty of this competition and that's the beauty of what we're trying to create here in Ulster.
"Toulon have a team that is star-studded with some of the world's best players and I know they'll bring a big crowd over and I know that our crowd will more than rival them. It's great for Ulster Rugby and it will be a pleasure to welcome them to Kingspan Stadium."
The two other games will undoubtedly draw big crowds to the home of Ulster Rugby, especially given the familiarity between the sides and how competitive a pool it is likely to be.
"We're well used to playing Leicester, having met them in two of the past three seasons and interestingly, when we've had them in our pool we've managed to go through to the quarter-finals," noted Logan.
"I think we are the only team in Europe to have gone through to the last-eight in each of the last four years. It will be tough, enjoyable, but we'll do our best to make it five years in a row.
"You can't underestimate the Scarlets. They beat us well away from home last season although we beat them well in Belfast. It's always a tough battle - they play attractive rugby and have a fine coach in Simon Easterby."
Following the completion of discussions between EPCR, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, Premiership Rugby and PRO12 Rugby to reschedule the six European club matches which were postponed due to the Paris attacks, it has been agreed by all parties that the games will be played on the weekend of January 8/9/10, 2016 in advance of round 5 of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce the extended contract of Ireland international Kieran Marmion. The 23-year-old, who was first capped for Ireland in the summer of 2014, has put pen to paper on a new two-year contract with Connacht Rugby.
Looking forward to the new GUINNESS PRO12 season, Connacht captain John Muldoon said: "We've a lot of younger guys who have big years ahead of them and a few big name signings who will hopefully be able to fit into the system and work hard among the ethos of Connacht Rugby."
Irish Rugby TV was at the launch of the GUINNESS PRO12 and we caught up with Jamie Heaslip, Pat Lam, John Muldoon, Matt O'Connor and Rory Sheridan of Diageo as the new sponsor gets ready to kick off an exciting season.
Out-half Dan Parks had a vital role in Connacht's historic Heineken Cup triumph in Toulouse, kicking two penalties, a drop goal and the touchline conversion of Kieran Marmion's try. He spoke to Rob Murphy after the game.
Rob Murphy caught up with Gavin Duffy after Connacht's inspirational defeat of Toulouse in the Heineken Cup, with the Mayo man giving an insight into how they produced such a high quality performance against the French giants.
Young scrum half Kieran Marmion was one of Connacht's star performers in their famous 16-14 Heineken Cup victory away to Toulouse, scoring a crucial second half try and picking up the man-of-the-match award.
Giving his reaction after Connacht's historic 16-14 win away to Toulouse, head coach Pat Lam said: "The belief's been there, we knew that this performance was not far away. To come here in a massive game with the side they put out is an unbelievable effort (from us) and I'm so proud of the guys."
Fergus McFadden, who helped to launch the Ulster Bank League awards in Dublin, spoke afterwards about his recovery from a fractured hand, previewed Leinster's back-to-back games against Northampton Saints and reflected on his involvement in the GUINNESS Series with Ireland.
Out-half Craig Ronaldson, who has made a successful transition from Ulster Bank League rugby with Lansdowne to a professional contract with Connacht, talks about the step up to this level of rugby, the importance of the league in providing game-time and a shop window for players and he also previews the province's back-to-back clashes with Toulouse.
Connacht head coach Pat Lam was proud of the performance his players produced in their 23-17 Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens, but he was left frustrated by some of referee Pascal Gauzere's decisions in a tight second half.
The Irish launch of the 2013/14 Heineken Cup took place in Dublin last week and Irish Rugby TV caught up with Sky Sports commentator Stuart Barnes to chat about his favourite Heineken Cup memories and get his thoughts on this season's tournament.