The European Rugby Cup draw for next season was made today.
This is the first time that the new seeding system has been used. The intention is to create four tiers of clubs, reflecting performance in the previous four years of the competition and then include one team from each tier in each group to avoid pools like Munster‘s and Leinster’s last season with a preponderance of heavy-hitters.
The tiering is achieved by awarding points, e.g. 11 for winning, 9 for making the final and so on. Munster topped the table with 31 points to Toulouse’s 28 with Biarritz, Leicester, Stade Francais and Wasps also in the top tier. Interestingly Leinster and Bath both have 18 points, same as Wasps but Wasps title last season breaks the tie in their favour.
Here is the draw, top tier team in each pool listed first, then second-tier team, etc…
Pool 1: Munster, Sale, Clermont, Montauban
Pool 2: Wasps, Leinster, Castres, Edinburgh
Pool 3: Leicester, Perpignan, Ospreys, Treviso
Pool 4: Stade Francais, Llanelli, Ulster, Harlequins
Pool 5: Toulouse, Bath, Dragons, Glasgow
Pool 6: Biarritz, Gloucester, Cardiff, Calvisano
Wel, as a Leinster man, it’s better than last season’s draw. Castres in for Toulouse, I’d take that and Wasps for Leicester is hard to call one way or the other. Edinburgh are in our group as they were last year and we simply must get over this ridiculous habit of losing to these guys away that we’ve developed. I think Stade/Biarritz, Leinster, Dragons, Treviso is about the easiest a hypothetical draw could have been.
Meanwhile Munster face Clermont again, a very unfortunate third seed to run into given their recent strengthening. Montauban shouldn’t present many problems and Munster have taken Sale’s number before although the English outfit are more potent since Luke McAlister’s signing. Stade Francais have perhaps the easiest lot of any top seed given last year’s showings by Llanelli and Ulster although the Welsh have more pedigree in ERC than they showed last season. I’d say Gloucester aren’t crying too much either as second seeds go.
Last season Leinster won all their home games but lost all their away ones and secured no bonus points at all. Not sticking tight to Toulouse when the game started to slip away contrasts sharply with Munster’s determined comeback against Clermont in a similar situation, although the same Clermont did the men in red a huge favour by bizarrely sending their second string to Limerick.
Three from three at home is the bare minimum acceptable. Castres and Edinburgh are both beatable on the road, so there’s five wins right there. Add in some bonus points and qualification will follow. Of course there’s this trouble with Edinburgh…