"Each year it gets tougher and tougher. Not just for us but for all the Irish sides. There are just no bad sides in the Heineken Cup. We start off at home and that's a plus, of course it is. But then we go away to Wales for the second October game. After that there's a break until December when we have the back-to back games with castres, the first one away. Now most of our boys will have been away for a month or so with the national squad.
They will have been away for the autumn internationals. We get them back on Monday, the week of the game with Castres. That will be an extremely difficult game because I don't think Castres have many if any internationals. So that's going to be a tough one. We'll train Monday/Tuesday and I assume travel Thursday. So we don't have much lead in to that game from a preparation point of view. Now the same applies to Leinster that week. They've drawn Bourgoin but at least they're at home. But Castres away is not pleasant. That's going to be tough.
Then there's Neath-Swansea. In their second season they'll be stronger. Also there's the fact that one of the Welsh provinces has gone and some of those Celtic Warriors players have gone to Ospreys. They looked a decent side in their inaugural year and they'll definiterly be a stronger unit next season.
To beat Montferrand, Harlequins have to be a good side and a side who probably haven't yet reached their best. They have a young exciting side, a lot of Irish boys there, young fellas like Andy Dunne and Simon Keogh, who I remember from Leinster as having huge potential. Then of course there's our own Jeremy (Staunton). Obviously a contest there between him (Jeremy) and Andy for the 10 jersey and throw in the experience of the likes of Will Greenwood and Tony Diprose and you've an exciting mix as far as Harlequins are concerned.
So no I would be very wary of this group. The side that goes through will be the side that finishes top. Second place won't do the way the other groups are drawn.
Munster, Neath-Swansea Ospreys, Castres Olympique, NEC Harlequins.