23 May, 12:21
The Irish Rugby Supporters Club is delighted to announce that tickets for the GUINNESS Series 2013 will go on sale on ticketmaster.ie at 10am on Thursday, May 30.
"To start away at Llanelli really is to begin with the toughest challenge. Perhaps I will make Gareth Thomas captain for the day to help us out!
"No, seriously, it will help to have a Welsh player on board this season to give us an insight into Welsh rugby in general. He will undoubtedly bring something extra to the team.
"Next season won't be a case of wiping out bad memories. I only have good memories of the Heineken Cup, even though we lost in the final at Twickenham. We are very lucky in figuring in two recent finals and qualifying to the quarter finals most seasons.
"But before thinking about getting to the final this season we must concentrate on doing a lot of hard work. We must take one match at a time starting with Llanelli at Stradey Park."
Andy Marinos (Chief Executive of The Dragons) "I don't think we can be too disappointed with our Pool and it doesn't appear to be as daunting as last season. That said, there are no easy games in the Heineken Cup.
"It really will be exciting to have Newcastle Falcons coming to Rodney Parade on opening night with the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Burke and Colin Charvis in their ranks. The sporting public in Gwent want to see the top names in the game playing at Rodney Parade and they won't be disappointed by the quality of players who will be coming with the Falcons, Perpignan and Edinburgh.
"We obviously know a little bit about Newcastle, having played and beaten them twice in the Heineken Cup two years ago, and we have been regular opponents of Edinburgh.
"We had Toulouse and Stade Francais in the Heineken Cup at Rodney Parade before, and beaten them both, so it will be great to play against another giant of French rugby, Perpignan."
Mark McCall (Ulster coach) "The difficulty of our Pool isn't a shock to us given our seeding as the third Irish side. That always means we get the top French team. We are getting used to meeting Stade Francais and we know a lot about Cardiff Blues. They improved a great deal last season and are bound to be even stronger with the influx of players from the Celtic Warriors.
And then there is Gloucester. They have proved themselves to be one of the top teams in England in recent years and it is obviously going to be a tough trip to Kingsholm.
"But I am very excited about the squad of players I've got to work with and Ulster went through last season unbeaten at home in the Heineken Cup and Celtic League, so I don't think anyone will be relishing a trip to Ravenhill.
"The number one priority for the season will be to make the last eight of the Heineken Cup - that's something we've failed to do since we won the title back in 1999. The standard has risen every season since then, but we feel we can be very competitive and we're looking forward to starting at home against the Blues."
Alan Gaffney (Munster Coach) "We've got a reasonable draw and it will be nice to start at home. There are some good connections between us and Quins and it will be a nice fixture for Jeremy Staunton and Paul Burke, who have crossed over between the two clubs this summer.
"There is also great history between ourselves and Castres. We've had some great battles with them in the past and we will all be looking forward to those two contests.
"The way the fixtures have fallen means we will have to travel to France immediately after the November internationals finish. That won't be easy for us, but we'll just have to get on with it."
Fabien Galthie (Stade Francais coach) "It's a very exciting Pool and extremely tough. We will be straight in at the deep end with a game against Gloucester. Gloucester have been at the top of English rugby for a number of seasons, while Ulster are also very good. We have never managed to win at Ravenhill.
"Cardiff Blues are the flag bearers of Welsh rugby as they represent the Welsh capital. We are looking forward to it and it goes without saying that we want to do as well as possible in the Heineken Cup."
Nigel Melville (Gloucester Director of Rugby) "Stade Francais are a fantastic side and had a superb result last weekend to claim the French Championship. They'll have a new coach next season in Fabien Galthie and we've got a lot of respect for both him and his players.
"There will be a great atmosphere when we play Cardiff Blues because the two sides having a strong tradition over the years. Ulster's ground is one of my favourites, having played there with both Yorkshire and England in years gone by, and I also went there with Wasps. The game at Ravenhill will be a big challenge, and they have great people in Ulster, so I'm sure it'll be a superb occasion."
Giampiero de Carli (Calvisano captain) It's a nightmare Pool for us. In the seven or eight years I've been playing in the Heineken Cup this has got to be the most difficult Pool I've ever been involved in.
London Wasps are the Heineken Cup champions. We played them last season, so we know how hard they are going to be. Biarritz could have reached the Heineken Cup final last season and are very strong and Leicester Tigers are bound to be even more competitive this season after a slight drop in form.
The Heineken Cup is always a major challenge, but there is a lot of work for us to do between now and the first round in October to make ourselves competitive.
Frank Hadden (Edinburgh Rugby coach) There is no doubt that our team grew in stature last season and it was a major boost to become the first Scottish side to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. We went to Toulouse feeling we were in with a chance, but the penalty count against us ruined our chances. Nevertheless, we learned a great deal from our three games against Toulouse last season - although I'm delighted we don't have to play them again.
Starting off in Perpignan isn't going to be easy, but I'm just happy that after a worrying summer we have been able to keep together the bulk of our squad. Even though we will miss Simon Taylor and Tom Philip for much of the season due to long term injuries, I feel we will be highly competitive. It's vital for Scottish rugby that we make further progress this season.