European Rugby Champions Cup: Northampton boss Jim Mallinder ready for tough campaign
Last Updated: 10/06/14 4:15pm
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder is preparing for a tough European campaign next season.
Saints, the Aviva Premiership champions, have been drawn in Pool 5 in the new European Rugby Champions Cup alongside Racing Metro, Ospreys and Treviso.
Mallinder said: "We haven't played Racing Metro before, and going to Paris will be an exciting challenge.
"Racing is an ambitious club and showed in their recent play-offs win away at Toulouse just how dangerous they can be. They have a squad packed with quality players and are strengthening even further over the summer.
"While Racing is a new opponent for us we know what to expect from the Ospreys. We had to work extremely hard for our results against them last season and it will be no different in 2014/15.
“Dan Biggar is a top goal kicker and Alun Wyn Jones is an outstanding captain and any side that has that number of internationals deserves to be respected.
"We haven't played Treviso for a few years, and it will be good to go back to Italy. But while that will be a good trip for the supporters we will have to make sure we keep our focus on the job in hand, which is to get a win over a team that beat Munster and ran Leinster and Ulster close on home turf in the Pro 12 last season.
"We know that as Aviva Premiership champions other teams are going to raise their game against us, which means we are going to have to raise our own standards as well.”
Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy said: "With the changes to European rugby everybody knew that what was already a very tough competition would get even tougher this season, but when you look at that draw you have to be genuinely excited.
"It's an awesome prospect and I can't wait to get started. When you have the English champions coming to town you know it's going to be tough, but you also know it'll be a pretty special occasion and that's something to look forward to.
"Racing Metro are new for us, we've never played them before. Their squad depth speaks for itself, they are star-studded, so we'll be looking forward to testing ourselves against them.
"We know all about Treviso and how dangerous they can be. I genuinely can't wait for the season to get underway now.”
Harlequins were drawn in Pool 2 with Castres, Leinster and Wasps and head coach John Kingston is relishing some epic battles.
He said: "Playing a side like Leinster with their wonderful European pedigree of late is a really mouth-watering prospect and equally Castres, having reached the French Top 14 final this year and being French champions the previous season, offers another great challenge for us.
"The new structure of the competition will mean even more that every point is going to be vital and that each match is going to be massively competitive. All in all it's a really exciting draw and we're looking forward to it kicking off in earnest in October.”