The draws for what may potentially be the final Heineken and Amlin Cup competitions were made today, with the English clubs all given frighteningly tough Heineken Cup Pools.
This years winners, Toulon, were drawen with Cardiff Blues, Glasgow and Exeter Chiefs in a group that looks relatively simple for the Mediterranean stars, neither Cardiff, Glasgow, or Exeter progressed beyond the groups.
Amlin champions and 2009, 2011, and 2012 winners Leinster are in Pool 1, alongside Northampton Saints, Ospreys, and Castres. All three sides are capable of producing some magical moments, particularly Castres who surprisingly won the Top 14 this year, but Leinster will be confident that they will be too strong.
Beaten finalists this year, and arguably the most complete team in the tournament, Clermont Auvergne, are in with Harlequins, Scarlets and Racing Metro, who will be gaining the likes of Dan Lydiate, Jamie Roberts and Jonny Sexton next year, and could pose a real threat.
With only the top team in each group going through in each group, plus the two best second placed sides, this is a pool that will likely see some high profile teams miss out.
European giants Toulouse have been drawn against Saracens, Connacht and Zebre, Toulouse will expect to qualify as the top seeds but with Connacht and Zebre unlikely to take many points it seems likely that Saracens could join Toulouse in qualifying.
Traditionally the groups with Italian clubs have seen two qualifiers, however Trevisoâ€™s pool, Pool 5 contains Ulster, Leicester and Montpellier, all of whom could easily take points from each other.
The final pool is Pool 6, which contains double champions Munster, James Hookâ€™s Perpignan, Edinburgh, and Gloucester. Munster and Perpignan ought to be the two to fight it out for top spot, but as Edinburgh showed in 2012, when on form they can catch a few teams out.
In the Amlin, each of the English club sides will be confident of progressing from their Pool, but as ever much will depend on which sides come down from the Heineken and on the desire of the French sides in the group stages.
Heineken Cup Pools (Predicted qualifiers in bold):
Pool 1: Leinster, Northampton, Ospreys, Castres
Pool 2: Toulon, Cardiff Blues, Glasgow, Exeter
Pool 3: Toulouse, Saracens, Connacht, Zebre
Pool 4: Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins, Scarlets, Racing Metro
Pool 5: Ulster, Leicester, Montpellier, Treviso
Pool 6: Munster, Perpignan, Edinburgh, Gloucester
Amlin Cup Pools:
Pool 1: Biarritz Olympique, Sale Sharks, Worcester Warriors, Oyonnax
Pool 2: Bath Rugby, Newport Gwent Dragons, Bordeaux-Begles, Mogliano Rugby
Pool 3: Brive, Newcastle Falcons, Cammi Rugby Calvisano, Bucharest Wolves
Pool 4: London Wasps, Rugby Viadana, Bayonne, Grenoble
Pool 5: Stade Francais Paris, London Irish, I Cavalieri Prato, Olympus Rugby XV