"They have recruited very well, are seventh in the French Championship and beat Castres at the weekend," said the Munster lock.
"We will try our best to hang on to the cup but, as it has already been proved, that is a very hard thing to do and first and foremost, you have to get out of your pool.
"We negotiated our way through it very successfully last year so we will try to do that again."
Ulster also open against French opposition with Stade Francais making the trip to Ravenhill, while Leinster start their challenge on the road against Edinburgh.
"Stade Francais will be one of the favourites to win the Heineken Cup and we need to make Ravenhill the fortress it was in past seasons," said Ulster captain Rory Best.
While Munster have been crowned kings of Europe twice and Ulster walked off winners in 1999, Leinster have never qualified for the showpiece final and the province's captain Leo Cullen is setting his sights on getting back to Edinburgh in May.
"We are in a tough pool, the standards get better and better and year by year it gets harder and harder to win the Heineken Cup," he admitted.
Derek McGrath, Chief Executive of tournament organisers ERC, announced that over 15,000 tickets have already been sold for the Edinburgh final.
"We have 420 internationals from 24 countries registered for this season's tournament and that gives you some idea of the global perspective of the Heineken Cup," he said.
"Television cameras will be at eleven of the 12 round 1 matches and that interest is also reflected in the way clubs are making efforts to expand their venues and take these events to bigger stadia."