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Heineken Cup – Welsh Reaction.

15th June 2005 By Munster Rugby

Heineken Cup – Welsh Reaction.

“It didn’t really benefit us being a seed,” bemoaned Ospreys rugby manager Derwyn Jones. “But it’s something we’ve got to take on the chin.

Simon Thomas, Western Mail.

WALES’ four regions were last night reflecting on the bizarre groupings thrown up by a shock draw for next season’s

On a day when class counted for little, Wales’ top team, the Ospreys, came out in just about the toughest pool imaginable, and our lowest-ranked team, the Blues, had the easiest draw of the lot.

The Celtic League champions find themselves in the “group of death”, alongside Stade Francais, Leicester and Stephen Jones’ Clermont Auvergne.

Meanwhile, the Blues, who only qualified through a play-off back-door, have been pooled with Calvisano, Leeds and Perpignan.

“It didn’t really benefit us being a seed,” bemoaned Ospreys rugby manager Derwyn Jones. “But it’s something we’ve got to take on the chin. Everyone knows about Leicester’s pedigree and to have two French teams is tough. If we qualify from this group we’ll deserve to go far in the tournament.

“It is ironic that possibly the fourth of the Welsh teams has got a slightly easier route than we have. But that’s life. We knew the way the draw was going to work beforehand and we just have to get on with it now.”

But Blues chief executive Bob Norster could scarcely disguise his delight following the draw at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. “I think we would be pleased we’ve drawn an Italian side,” he said, in of the understatements of the year after the Blues were also grouped with the lowest-ranked English side and fifth-ranked French club.

This lopsided outcome is a product of the new system employed by tournament organisers ERC. In the past, every team has been allocated their group based on their ranking within their country. But this year, only the top-ranked sides from each of the six participating countries were seeded.

They were placed in separate pools and then, after that, it was an open draw for the first time. The one proviso was that no pool should have more than one team from the same country, with the exception of France.

The Scarlets have also been handed a testing group with Toulouse, European champions from the last two years, Wasps and Edinburgh joining them in Pool 6. Chief executive Stuart Gallacher said, “There’s no hiding away from the fact we’ve got a tough draw.”

The Dragons are also up against quality opposition in the shape of Munster, Castres and Sale. But new coach Paul Turner was philosophical about the challenge that lies ahead. “We’ll take what we’ve got,” he said.

Elsewhere, French champions Biarritz are grouped with Saracens, Ulster and Treviso in Pool 4. And there will be plenty of familiar faces in Pool 5 where, like last season, Bath, Leinster and Bourgoin have been pitched together. In a further anomaly, the weakest team in that group looks to be Glasgow, who – like Calvisano – were seeded, as the top Scottish side in the Celtic League.

The opening round of matches will take place on the weekend of October 21-23, with the final on May 20 or 21 at the Millennium Stadium.

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