The Heineken Cup kicks off on Friday with the Calvisano and Celtic Warriors game while Toulouse begin the defence of their title on Sunday in Edinburgh.
The Heineken Cup kicks off on Friday with the Calvisano and Celtic Warriors game, folowed by Llanelli Scarlets at home to Northampton Saints while Toulouse begin the defence of their title on Sunday in Edinburgh. Toulouse open their defence of the Heineken Cup in Edinburgh on Sunday with head coach Guy Noves declaring all 24 teams are on the same starting line.
We may have won the Heineken Cup last season but that belongs to the past and we start the competition from scratch – just like everyone else.
Our ambition, as always, is to progress as far as we possibly can in the competition. That is all we can ask without being disrespectful to the other teams who all have the potential to go a long way.
To win any competition two years in a row is a huge feat and what Leicester achieved two years ago was enormous. We have two titles to our name but they are very spread out in time so our desire to win the Heineken Cup again is just as keen.
Noves, also in charge when Toulouse triumphed in 1996, added: I know that Edinburgh have had some good results this season and have progressed as a team – which is quite worrying for us as we haven’t had any time to prepare for the Heineken Cup properly with so many of our team being absent at the World Cup.
We haven’t had a great start to the season – in fact you would probably say it only kicked-off on Saturday in our 25-5 win over Narbonne.
However, I fear we might not be playing as well as a team as we have in previous campaigns due to the fact that we have only been together for four or five days.
Neath-Swansea Ospreys seem to be a stronger side than the Welsh sides we have played in the past and, with the improvement seen in Welsh rugby in the World Cup, I see them as a real danger.
And Leeds are one of the best sides in England at the moment – and that is saying something given the level of English rugby.
Edinburgh Rugby coach Frank Hadden saw his side go down 30-9 away and 50-17 at home to the champions last season and believes since then they have moved further away from us off the field – their set-up is second to none – but we feel we have got closer to them on the pitch.
Their biggest threat is their sheer quality of players from No 1 through to No 22. They have no real weaknesses and are an absolutely outstanding squad.
It was a privilege to be involved with them last season and it will be a privilege to be involved with them again on Sunday. We are really looking forward to the game.
Toulouse were, without a doubt, the best side in Europe last season and thoroughly deserved to win the Heineken Cup.
Hopefully we learned from our experience of playing them last season and we are looking forward to the challenge of improving against them this time.
We are not paying any attention to the form of clubs so far this season, particularly Toulouse who had so many players in the World Cup.
They haven’t lost any players since last season so they are certainly still a force to be reckoned with this year.