The European Challenge Cup 2007 / 2008 draw for the composition of the five Pools of four teams each was made today (Friday, 22 June) in the Dublin offices of ERC, the tournament organisers.
With Spain returning to European competition for the first time since the 2004 / 2005 season, 20 teams from six nations – England, France, Ireland, Italy, Romania and Spain – will compete for the European title. Each side will play six group stage matches with the five Pool winners and three best runners-up advancing to the knock-out stages.
All 20 teams taking part next season have played in Europe before, Dax are back after last being involved in the European Challenge Cup in 2001 / 2002, while current Spanish champions Cetransa El Salvador previously competed in the tournament three years ago.
The draw, which was overseen by IRB Head of Rugby Services, Mark Egan, sees Bath Rugby face two French and one Italian club in their bid to go all the way to another European final on the weekend of 23 / 24 / 25 May, 2008, while No 1 French seeds Montauban face English, Italian and Romanian challenges.
Newcastle Falcons, who have signed All Blacks front row star Carl Heymans, will have trips to Spain, France and Ireland, while Worcester Warriors, who have signed New Zealand wing Rico Gear, also have opponents from three nations. Former double European Challenge Cup champions Sale Sharks go to France twice and Italy once.
“We have retained the same successful format of the last two seasons of the European Challenge Cup and following today’s Pool draw we are looking forward to another highly successful competition,” said ERC Chairman Jean-Pierre Lux.
“ASM Clermont Auvergne – who have qualified for the Heineken Cup – and Bath Rugby produced a thrilling European Challenge Cup final at the Twickenham Stoop last month and the tournament again promises to provide plenty of top quality and high intensity European rugby.”
Irish province Connacht – who have played a record 71 matches in 11 seasons in the tournament – joined Bath Rugby, Montauban, Rugby Calvisano and Bayonne as the five seeded teams.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP POOLS 2007 / 2008
POOL 1: Bath Rugby, Albi, Overmach Rugby Parma, Auch
POOL 2: Montauban, Worcester Warriors, Gran Parma, Bucuresti
POOL 3: Connacht Rugby, Brive, Newcastle Falcons, Cetransa El Salvador
POOL 4: Bayonne, Sale Sharks, Petrarca Rugby, Montpellier
POOL 5: Rugby Calvisano, Castres Olympique, Leeds Carnegie, Dax
PREVIOUS EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP WINNERS
1997 – Bourgoin
1998 – Colomiers
1999 – Montferrand (now ASM Clermont Auvergne)
2000 – Pau
2001 – NEC Harlequins
2002 – Sale Sharks
2003 – London Wasps
2004 – NEC Harlequins
2005 – Sale Sharks
2006 – Gloucester Rugby
2007 – ASM Clermont Auvergne
European Challenge Cup Draw Format
· 20 teams from six countries were drawn into five Pools of four teams each.
· No two teams from the same country were drawn in the same Pool with the exception of France as there are eight French teams competing.
· Seeded teams
Five seeded teams were drawn into separate Pools. France, who have eight teams in the tournament, had two seeded teams in the Pool draw as the 2006 / 2007 European Challenge Cup champions ASM Clermont Auvergne came from France.
Montauban (number 1 team from France)
Bath Rugby (number 1 team from England)
Rugby Calvisano (number 1 team from Italy)
Connacht (number 1 team from Ireland)
Bayonne (number 2 team from France)
Step 1 – Five top seeded teams drawn into five separate Pools.
Step 2 – French teams (ranked 3 to 5) drawn into three separate Pools. Both Pools with French seeded teams excluded.
Step 3 – Four remaining English teams drawn into four separate Pools. Pool with English seed excluded
Step 4 – Three remaining Italian teams drawn into separate Pools. Pool with Italian seed excluded
Step 5 – Three remaining French teams (ranked 6 to 8) drawn into separate Pools
Step 6 – One Romanian and one Spanish team drawn into two separate Pools