After seeing his Ospreys team drawn in Challenge Cup Pool 2 alongside Pau, Worcester Warriors and Stade Francais, Allen Clarke said that everyone should be excited about what lies in store.
While Stade are familiar foes having gone toe-to-toe with Ospreys a little over a year ago in the last eight of this competition, there is a first ever clash with their compatriots Pau to look forward to as well as a ‘derby’ against Worcester Warriors to look forward to.
“It’s a really exciting draw” said Clarke, who will lead the Ospreys into European action for the first time.
“We are pooled with three teams that have real quality right the way through and will provide different challenges to what we are used to week in, week out, in the Guinness PRO14.
“When you look at out Pool, and the list of teams in the competition this year, it’s an indication of how the game is growing in Europe and the challenge that teams face across their domestic leagues to qualify for the Champions Cup.
“We are looking forward to playing different teams, going to different venues, and I think players, coaches and supporters will all share that excitement.”
Looking at the Challenge Cup opposition team by team, Clarke acknowledged that the Ospreys will be up against some clubs who will be looking to make a statement of intent this season:
“Pau showed their quality in this competition last season, winning their pool unbeaten, defeating Gloucester away, and going through to the semi-finals where they pushed the Blues all the way in Cardiff.
“Stade are one of the traditional giants of French rugby and are approaching next season with a renewed vigour so will be a really dangerous outfit with real quality. Worcester are a club that have invested and recruited, so will have increased expectations for the coming season. I know some of the coaching staff and we’ll see Ashley Beck coming back to the Liberty which will give it an added dimension.
“It’s an old cliche, about there being no easy games, but that is the reality, Each round will offer unique challenges and hurdles for us to deal with but when you see the names on the board like that it brings the new season that little bit closer.”
Ospreys supporters can watch each home game in the Challenge Cup, as well as the Guinness PRO14, from just £195, when they purchase a 2018/19 season membership, available now at this link.
2018/19 Challenge Cup pools
Pool 1: Northampton Saints, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Dragons, Timisoara Saracens
Pool 2: Pau, Ospreys, Worcester Warriors, Stade Français Paris
Pool 3: Sale Sharks, Connacht Rugby, Bordeaux-Bègles, Perpignan
Pool 4: La Rochelle, Zebre Rugby Club, Bristol Bears, Enisei-STM
Pool 5: Benetton Rugby, Harlequins, Agen, Grenoble
EPCR weekends – 2018/19 season
Round 1: 12/13/14 October
Round 2: 19/20/21 October
Round 3: 7/8/9 December
Round 4: 14/15/16 December
Round 5: 11/12/13 January 2019
Round 6: 18/19/20 January 2019
Quarter-finals: 29/30/31 March 2019
Semi-finals: 19/20/21 April 2019
2019 Newcastle Finals
Challenge Cup final: Friday 10 May, St James’ Park
Heineken Champions Cup final: Saturday 11 May, St James’ Park