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Lam Happy With Connacht’s European Draw

Lam Happy With Connacht’s European Draw

New challenges as well as familiar opponents await Connacht when they embark on their third Heineken Cup campaign in October.

Connacht, who qualified for the tournament courtesy of Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup success, been drawn in Pool 3 along with Toulouse, Saracens and Zebre.

Wednesday’s pool draw at the Aviva Stadium threw the westerners together with Toulouse, the French giants who played at the Sportsground in November 2011 when the sides met for the first time in European competition.

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A record 9,120 attendance in Galway watched Toulouse run out 36-10 winners in the first ever Heineken Cup game to be played in the west of Ireland, and the next clash promises to be just as thrilling.

While it will be the first time Connacht face London-based outfit Saracens in the tournament, the beaten Aviva Premiership semi-finalists have previously visited the Sportsground.

A pre-season fixture in 2010 was followed up the next season when the province travelled to HAC London for the subsequent friendly.

After drawing Zebre in last year’s campaign, Connacht and the Italians are well-acquainted having faced each other on four occasions within a seven-month period this past season – competing in both the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12.

Based in beautiful Parma, the Italian fixture should, once again, prove a popular choice among the Connacht fans who plan to travel with Pat Lam’s men next season.

Speaking after the draw was made, newly-appointed Connacht head coach Pat Lam commented: “It’s very exciting to be a part of the Heineken Cup again and I’m happy with the pool we’ve drawn.

“The big thing for us was the fact that we were in the Heineken Cup in the first place. After that, all the teams in the competition are quality and challenging opposition.

“Of course, Toulouse is the big one. They have a very proud history and will prove tough opposition. We’re looking forward to facing them again.

“Saracens are also a big name team and should attract a lot of interest from around the province.

“Yes, we have Zebre again and, after last year, we might be expected to win those games but that in itself is a major challenge. They’ll be back fighting with a point to prove. We can’t underestimate them.”

He added: “At the end of the day, for us it’s all about what we do as a team. We have the guys back in for fitness testing tomorrow (Thursday) and what we do and how we perform in pre-season is massive for us. We’re all very much looking forward to the season ahead.”

Since the inaugural year of Heineken Cup rugby in Connacht, the west of Ireland has seen major changes both within the Sportsground and throughout Galway.

Thousands of supporters have flocked to the city to see Connacht take on French powerhouses Biarritz and Toulouse and Aviva Premiership giants Harlequins and Gloucester over the last two seasons.

Next season promises to be an equally thrilling journey for Connacht as they once again compete in what has been described as the best club tournament in the world, the Heineken Cup, as well as competing in the RaboDirect PRO12.

Due to the exceptional demand to see some of Europe’s greatest teams at the Sportsground, Connacht Rugby Season Tickets remain the only way to guarantee entry to the three home pool matches, as well as all 11 of Connacht’s home RaboDirect PRO12 games.

Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased on www.connachtrugby.ie or from the Connacht Rugby offices at the Sportsground, College Road, Galway. Season Ticket holders will also have priority booking on all away fixtures.