Reigning European Champions Leinster Rugby will begin the defence of their Heineken Champions Cup with Pool 1 games against Wasps, Toulouse and Bath Rugby following Wednesday’s draw for the 2018-19 season.
Head Coach Leo Cullen discussed the province’s pool opponents and the challenge of facing three teams that have all been European champions when he spoke to Leinster Rugby TV.
Commenting on his side’s pool draw, Cullen said:
“The way the new format of the competition has gone, the pools are incredibly difficult. We made a presentation to Girvan (Dempsey) at the end of the season so we knew we were destined to draw against Bath. Wasps, who we had a couple of very tough outings against in the pool stages a couple of years ago, so we know how tough a team they are. Toulouse have won the tournament four times so they know how to do it. All the teams in our pool have won the tournament before. As always, it’s an incredibly tough pool. The guys are back at it today so they’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
The great irony of the draw is playing Girvan Dempsey’s Bath Rugby side, with Dempsey having left his native Leinster at the end of last season to join the English side’s coaching ticket:
“Anyone that has been part of the team here, when they move somewhere else you always wish them the very best but you hope they don’t come back to haunt you on some of the days. It will be great catching up with those guys. Bath have a very strong coaching group. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Todd Blackadder when he was coaching the Canterbury Crusaders. They’re a really good bunch of people over there so it will be a great challenge for us.”
On the challenge to be faced against French powerhouse Toulouse, the Leinster Rugby Head Coach stated:
“You know with all the French teams they’re unbelievably heavily resourced. They have an unbelievably strong squad. They’re one of the great teams. We tried to follow their example for many years. It will be an exciting encounter against them as well.”
In a group that contains all former winners of Europe’s premier rugby tournament, Dai Young’s Wasps also have the assistance of some former Leinster players to prepare them for the challenge of facing the reigning champions:
“Wasps are a very stable organisation now. Since Dai Young has taken over they’ve gradually improved all the time. They’ve made some good signings during the summer, Lima Sopoaga in particular, Brad Shields as well – I’m sure people have seen him with England over the last couple of weeks. They’re a very, very strong squad. They have a good bit of inside knowledge with Jimmy Gopperth who’s still there. They’re a team that caused us a lot of problems a couple of years ago in the pool when we had Wasps and Bath, so some pretty mixed memories of those games. It’s a different group of players now, so for us, we’re just getting back to work now and working on trying to get better and improving small bits in our game.”
Fixtures details will be confirmed in due course.