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Connacht Learn Of Challenge Cup Opponents

Connacht Learn Of Challenge Cup Opponents

The draw for the pool stages of the 2007/08 European Challenge Cup was made in the ERC’s Dublin offices today, with Ireland’s sole representatives Connacht joining teams from five other nations – England, France, Italy, Romania and Spain – in next season’s tournament.

The draw has placed Connacht, one of five seeded teams, in Pool 3 alongside French side Brive, England’s Newcastle Falcons and Cetransa El Salvador, the current Spanish champions.

Cetransa El Salvador previously competed in the tournament three years – next season will see the Spanish clubs return to European competition for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign.

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Connacht, who have played a record 71 matches over the eleven seasons of the tournament, failed to win through to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals last season, having made the knockout stages in each of the previous four years.

Bath and NEC Harlequins proved too strong and relegated Michael Bradley’s side to third in the pool last term, but helped by some astute signings, the westerners looked well primed for another assault on Europe. Indeed two of those signings – out-half Tim Donnelly and flanker Mike McCarthy – previously played with Brive and Newcastle respectively.

Brive and Newcastle played each other in Pool 3 of last season’s competition, with Brive topping the table before they lost away to the Dragons in the quarter-finals. Newcastle, who recently signed New Zealand prop Carl Hyaman, also bowed out in the last-eight as eventual champions Clermont Auvergne beat them 24-19 at home.

Connacht met Newcastle at the quarter-final stage in the 2005/06 Challenge Cup, with the Falcons emerging as 23-3 victors at Kingston Park.

In next season’s Challenge Cup, each team will play six group stage matches with the five pool winners and three best runners-up advancing to the knockout stages.

Today’s draw was overseen by IRB Head of Rugby Services Mark Egan. The pool stages begin over the weekend of November 9-11 with the final set for the weekend of May 23-25.

ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux said: “We have retained the same successful format of the last two seasons of the European Challenge Cup and following today’s pool draw, we are looking forward to another highly successful competition.

“ASM Clermont Auvergne – who have qualified for the Heineken Cup – and Bath Rugby produced a thrilling European Challenge Cup final at the Twickenham Stoop last month and the tournament again promises to provide plenty of top quality and high intensity European rugby.”

The tournament fixtures will be confirmed in the coming weeks.


POOL 1: Bath Rugby, Albi, Overmach Rugby Parma, Auch

POOL 2: Montauban, Worcester Warriors, Gran Parma, Bucuresti

POOL 3: CONNACHT RUGBY, Brive, Newcastle Falcons, Cetransa El Salvador

POOL 4: Bayonne, Sale Sharks, Petrarca Rugby, Montpellier

POOL 5: Rugby Calvisano, Castres Olympique, Leeds Carnegie, Dax

– Seeded teams in bold