After last month’s Heineken Champions Cup Pool Draw in Lausanne, we take a closer look at Pool 3, including the Challenge Cup holders and the 2017 Champions Cup winners.
Ground: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales
European Cup record: Cardiff reached the inaugural European Cup final in 1996, but were narrowly beaten 21-18 after extra time by Toulouse at Cardiff Arms Park, with fly-half Christophe Deylaud kicking the decisive penalty with seconds remaining.
They are also two-time Challenge Cup winners, after victories in 2010 and most recently 2018, when they defeated Gloucester Rugby 31-30 in a thrilling Bilbao final.
Last season: As mentioned above, Cardiff Blues claimed a second Challenge Cup victory after a late Gareth Anscombe penalty kick was enough to defeat Gloucester in a pulsating final in the Basque Country. They qualified for this season’s Heineken Champions Cup as a result of their Challenge Cup success and their fourth-place finish in Guinness PRO14’s Conference A.
Head Coach: Former head coach Danny Wilson left Cardiff Blues during the off-season after his Challenge Cup victory to join Scotland as assistant to Gregor Townsend. His replacement is former Honda Heat and Western Force coach John Mulvihill, who has recently coached the Barbarians.
Key players: A key man in Cardiff’s Challenge Cup success was undoubtedly fly-half Gareth Anscombe. The Wales international missed a conversion in the dying minutes that would have levelled the score at 30- 30, but had the nerve to step up and convert a tricky penalty just seconds after to clinch victory for the Welsh region. They can also boast Welsh back-row trio Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi and Sam Warburton as well as wing Blaine Scully and scrumhalf Tomos Williams.
Bilbao was just the start. Cardiff Blues are now back on Europe's top table and hungry for more success….@GlasgowWarriors @Saracens and @LeLOURugby are the first test for Wales' Capital Region. Be there for the return to @ChampionsCup rugby – https://t.co/lqVuFjIuSq pic.twitter.com/6kIvA4PCQ4
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) June 25, 2018
Ground: Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow, Scotland
European Cup record: Glasgow Warriors have only reached the European Cup quarter-finals on one occasion, in 2017. They came second in a group with Munster Rugby, Leicester Tigers and Racing 92. Despite a stern defensive effort the Scottish club were beaten 38-13 by eventual winners Saracens in the quarter-finals that season.
Last season: They struggled last year in the Champions Cup, finishing bottom of Pool 3. However, they had a better campaign in the PRO14, finishing top of Conference A before being beaten 28-13 by Scarlets in the semi-finals.
Head coach: Dave Rennie took the reins at Scotstoun last season, taking over from Gregor Townsend who left to join the Scotland national team. Rennie has previously had spells at Super Rugby sides Hurricanes and Chiefs.
Key players: Glasgow have a team packed with Scotland internationals, including wing Tommy Seymour, lock Jonny Gray, centre Alex Dunbar and scrum-half George Horne. New additions include Canada wing D.T.H van der Merwe, USA Eagles back-row David Tameilau and Nick Frisby from the Queensland Reds.
Ground: Stade de Gerland, Lyon, France
European Cup record: Lyon will make a first appearance in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, having previously featured exclusively in the Challenge Cup.
Last season: Lyon didn’t reach the heights that they would have liked during in last season’s Challenge Cup, finishing bottom of Pool 2 behind eventual winners Cardiff Blues, who they will meet again this time around. They fared much better in the Top 14, though, reaching fifth in the regular season before a 40-14 semi-final defeat to Montpellier.
Head coach: Former ASM Clermont Auvergne and RC Toulon scrum-half Pierre Mignoni became Lyon head coach in 2015, and got the French side promoted from Pro D2 at the first attempt. He has recently signed a new deal at Lyon, extending his stay until 2023.
Key players: Former England utility-back Delon Armitage joined Lyon in 2016 after a successful four-year spell at RC Toulon, winning three European Cups in the process. The French side have also added the likes of centre Charlie Ngatai, prop Raphael Chaume and fly-half Jean-Marc Doussain.
🏆🏉| @ChampionsCup Pool 3: Saracens, Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors, Lyon
Happy with the draw? 🔴⚫️
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) June 20, 2018
Ground: Allianz Park, London, England
European Cup record: Saracens have a stellar recent record in the European Cup, having won the competition in 2016 and 2017. The first success came courtesy of a 21-9 victory over Racing 92 in Lyon, while in 2017 they defeated ASM Clermont Auvergne 28-17 in the final at Murrayfield.
Last season: Saracens were unable to clinch a third consecutive success in the top-flight competition last season, as eventual winners Leinster Rugby defeated the defending champions 30-19 at the Aviva Stadium. They did however win the English Premiership for the third time in four seasons after a 27-10 win over Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham.
Director of rugby: Mark McCall joined Saracens in 2009 as a coach but has since moved into the role of director of rugby after the departure of Brendan Venter in 2011. He has led Saracens into their most successful spell ever, winning two European Cups and four Aviva Premiership titles.
Key players: Saracens captain Brad Barritt has been with the Allianz Park side since 2008, having featured in 54 European matches including both Champions Cup wins. They can also boast two EPCR European Player of the Year winners in lock Maro Itoje (2016) and fly-half Owen Farrell (2017).