Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard “can’t wait” to be guiding his side back into Heineken Champions Cup action in November after a one-season absence.
Having reached the semi-finals of the European Rugby Challenge Cup last term, the London club’s boss is thrilled to be returning to what he believes is the biggest rugby union club competition in the world.
“It’s just great to be back in the Champions Cup and I relish the opportunity to compete and test ourselves as a club, as coaches and as players.” he told the Harlequins website.
“I want us as a club to be unconditional with who we play, where we play and when we play. I want us to play in a way that wins, one that excites and one that is played in the right spirit of the sport underpinning the games great values.
“There is no bigger rugby union club competition in the world than this and to be a part of it is hugely exciting and fantastic to have an opportunity in which we aim to do well.
“For the support staff, it’s a great chance to test ourselves and improve as a coordinated coaching group against the very best Europe has to offer.
“We fought hard last year to give ourselves this opportunity. It’s important that we recognise the door is now open, but equally we are the only ones that can walk through it and grasp the occasions we will experience. I, for one, can’t wait.”
🗓 When are the Champions Cup rounds?
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) June 19, 2019
Gustard will be facing familiar foes in Pool 3 in Gallagher Premiership rivals Bath Rugby, as well as ASM Clermont Auvergne, who defeated Quins 32-27 in April en route to the Challenge Cup, while Ulster Rugby were in Quins’ pool in their last season in the Champions Cup in 2017/18.
“At the top table of European rugby, you expect to play some great teams and experience some amazing venues and occasions, and the draw has not let us down,” he said. “We play three very good teams who all pose different challenges that will test our resilience, our style and our tactical acumen.
“Clermont had a tremendous season last year, winning the Challenge Cup and losing in the TOP 14 final against a very good Toulouse team.
“Ulster at the Kingspan is a brilliant venue, with loud passionate partisan fans that support a much-improved team who finished second in their PRO14 Conference last season.
“And then we have our old friends and rivals, Bath, former champions in 1998 and a side littered with internationals and history in this competition.
Expect plenty of tries in Pool 3 with the talent out wide…💫
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) June 23, 2019
“We play three big teams, but let’s not forget there are four teams in a group and that one of those is Harlequins and we are a good team too!
“I would like to think that those three teams will look at us and know they are going to get a tough game against a continually improving side, with a lot of talent that are heading in the right direction.
“They will know that coming to a noisy Stoop with our fantastic fans in full song is a serious challenge and one to savour.”