10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The eighth season of the jewel in European club rugby's crown kicks off on Friday night with the champions travelling to Neath for a testing opener as the 24 teams from six nations all set off in hope of joining Toulouse, Brive, Bath, Ulster, Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers on the roll of honour.
"Winning back-to-back Heineken Cup finals was a great achievement and we know that a hat-trick of titles would be even tougher," said the double Lions skipper. "As the champions we are the ones to be shot at, the ones everyone else want to beat. But that is nothing new for us at Leicester and we are really looking forward to opening our defence of the title at Neath on Friday night and our other Pool 1 matches against Beziers and Amatori & Calvisano." "There are no easy games in the Heineken Cup and we are aware that Neath are doing well in the Celtic League and that we need to perform on the night." "People are also reminding us that we have lost both our previous Heineken Cup Pool matches in Wales, at Pontypridd and Llanelli, so we need to start putting that record straight." "Time has flown since we beat Munster but the Heineken Cup gives such a buzz to players and supporters that I am really looking forward to the new tournament."
Lyn Jones, the Neath coach, said: "If you are going to play the Heineken Cup champions - and they are deserved champions over the last two years - then you want to play them first before they build up any momentum." "Friday night at The Gnoll is going to be a massive event in our history. Leicester are a huge club with a huge tradition and, like ourselves, play with tremendous pride and passion. We have to step up another gear for the Heineken Cup."