Montpellier head coach Vern Cotter has said his side are aiming for an improved Heineken Champions Cup run after failing to reach last year’s knockout stages. 

The French side finished third in Pool 3 last season with 13 points behind eventual winners Leinster Rugby and Premiership Rugby finalists Exeter Chiefs. 

They find themselves in another tricky Pool this time around with last season’s Challenge Cup quarter-finalists Edinburgh Rugby and semi-finalists Newcastle Falcons as well as three-time European Cup winners RC Toulon. 

Speaking at last week’s Heineken Champions Cup launch in Toulouse, the former ASM Clermont Auvergne head coach discussed his experiences in the competition, saying: “Last year was a mixed bag. We were in quite a strong pool with Exeter, Leinster and Glasgow, and we only managed two difficult wins, but when we saw Leinster go on to win the tournament, that made us feel a bit better about ourselves. 

“We’re really impatient to get started; we wanted to qualify last year, but it didn’t work out, so our aim this year is to do what it takes to qualify. 

“This is an ambitious group of players. You can’t always win, but when you lose, it’s important that you learn something from those defeats in order to progress. 

“We’re starting this season knowing that we’ll be playing in the Heineken Champions Cup, and playing in a new competition should give everyone a lift. 

“It’s an international competition where you play against teams you don’t face in your domestic league, so that’s interesting in itself. 

“Our preparations are going well and this first match against Edinburgh is coming at exactly the right time for us.” 

The former Scotland head coach has also had first-hand experience of Newcastle’s St. James’ Park – host of the 2019 European Finals Weekend – having coached his side in two matches at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 

“I know it personally because we played two matches there at the World Cup in 2015 against South Africa and Samoa,” Cotter added. “I have very good memories of the stadium and the city of Newcastle. 

“It’s a city that enjoys hosting big events and where the people know how to enjoy themselves. I think there’ll be a good atmosphere for the final, with a full house at that legendary stadium. 

“But you need to get there, and it all kicks off for us in three weeks’ time. We’re looking forward to getting started.”