The European Challenge Cup 2006 / 2007 draw for the composition of the five Pools of four teams each was made today (Thursday, 22 June) in the Dublin offices of ERC, the tournament organisers.

With Wales being represented in the European Challenge Cup this season, 20 teams from seven nations will compete for the coveted European title.  Each side from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Scotland and Wales is guaranteed six group stage matches with the five Pool winners and three best runners-up advancing to the knock-out stages.

 


European Challenge Cup newcomers Newport Gwent Dragons will clash with Bayonne, Bristol Rugby and Bucuresti while fellow tournament first-timers Albi (Sporting Club Albigeois), will meet ASM Clermont Auvergne, Worcester Warriors and Viadana in their first European campaign.



Newcastle Falcons, who reached last season’s all-English semi-finals, will have French tests against 1997 Heineken Cup winners Brive and Montauban along with home and away contests against Petrarca Padova while Scottish team Glasgow Warriors will come up against England, French and Italian opposition in the Pool matches that start on the weekend of 20 / 21 / 22 October.


 


Two times European Challenge Cup winners NEC Harlequins will launch their bid for a third European title with Pool matches against Connacht Rugby, Montpellier and 1998 Heineken Cup winners Bath Rugby.



Stuart Abbott – a Heineken Cup final winner with London Wasps two years ago when they beat Toulouse in the 2004 final, joined Harlequins in the summer and, along with players like clubmate and All Blacks ace Andrew Mehrtens, will be among the host of international stars in the competing for European glory.



“Gloucester Rugby and London Irish – who have both qualified for next season’s Heineken Cup – produced a thrilling European Challenge Cup final last month and the tournament which features seven teams for the first time in this format again promises to provide plenty of top quality and high intensity European rugby,” said ERC Chairman Jean-Pierre Lux following the draw, which was overseen by IRB official David Carrigy.



“We have retained the same successful format of last season’s European Challenge Cup and following today’s Pool draw we are looking forward to another highly successful competition.”


 


EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP POOLS 2006 / 2007


 


POOL 1: Newport Gwent Dragons, Bayonne, Bristol Rugby, Bucuresti
POOL 2: Glasgow Warriors, Narbonne, Saracens, GRAN Parma
POOL 3: Newcastle Falcons, Brive, Petrarca Padova, Montauban
POOL 4: Connacht Rugby, Montpellier, Bath Rugby, NEC Harlequins
POOL 5: ASM Clermont Auvergne, Worcester Warriors, Viadana, Albi


The fixtures for the European Challenge Cup will be announced on ERCrugby.com in mid July.


 


Notes to Editors


i)                    20 teams from seven countries are drawn into five Pools of four teams each.


ii)                  No two teams from the same country can be drawn in the same Pool except for the sixth and seventh from France and sixth team from England, who can face any of their six domestic rivals.


iii)                England’s Number 1 team Newcastle Falcons were seeded going into the Pool draw as the 2005/6 European Challenge Cup champions Gloucester Rugby came from England.  The remaining four seed spots available went to ASM Clermont Auvergne, Connacht Rugby, Glasgow Warriors and Newport Gwent Dragons, and were decided by a draw of the number 1 teams from France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.