Connacht to face French champs in Heineken pool

LEINSTER will start their defense of the Heineken Cup in a pool also involving Bath, Glasgow Warriors and French Championship runners-up Montpellier.

Coach Joe Schmidt readily admits that it is not as formidable as the tough pool they faced on their way to winning the trophy this season. But he expects it to be very competitive, with Montpellier a real danger.

Munster find themselves in a pool along with this season's runners-up Northampton, Llanelli Scarlets and Castres. Not easy but at least they are up against sides they know very well.

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Ulster are up against two of the favorites in Leicester Tigers and Clermont Auvergne in their pool, along with Italian outfit Aironi. So, they face a huge challenge.

So, for that matter, do Connacht who will be competing in the competition for the first time. They will face French champions Toulouse, along with Harlequins and Gloucester from England.

But coach Eric Elwood is delighted with the prospect of facing such high-class opposition, and can't wait for the visit of Toulouse to Galway.

Meanwhile, Ireland opened their Junior Rugby (Under 20) World Cup campaign with an exciting 33-25 defeat to England in Treviso, Italy.

After a poor start which saw them go 13-0 behind, the Irish team played some great rugby to lead with eight minutes remaining. But the sheer physical strength of the English team told in the closing stages as they went on to secure victory.* Kieran Rooney