Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors cannot wait to get their Heineken Champions Cup campaigns underway this weekend.
Richard Cockerill’s men are in pool five with Montpellier, Newcastle Falcons and Toulon and although the Englishman does not necessarily feel his side can win the star-studded event, he believes the campaign will be great for the squad’s development.
The journey begins this Saturday with a trip to the GGL Stadium in Montpellier and then in round two the team welcome Toulon to BT Murrayfield seven days later.
Having been not involved in this competition for a few seasons there is sure to be a big crowd out in force at the national stadium for that second match, but for now all thoughts are on the away clash in France against the team coached by former Scotland head coach Vern Cotter.
“It’s a very tough pool but that is good for us,” Cockerill said.
“You’ve got to win all your home games and do something away from home.
“We’ve got to do our best to go to Montpellier and play as well as we can and try to win. We’ve got Toulon next who aren’t having the best of seasons by their standards.
“Over in Montpellier we’re not going to force them into an arm wrestle because that’s going to make it tough for us. The ball in play [per match] stat in the Guinness PRO14 is over 40 minutes while in the French Top 14 it is just over 30 minutes, so if we can keep lots of ball, get quick ball and put them under pressure we’ll create opportunities.
“If, however, we let them control the ball, give it away cheaply, kick the ball down the throats of their big men in wide channels then we’ll get punished.
“It’s going to be a huge test for us mentally and physically, especially for some of our young players who haven’t played at this intensity.”
Glasgow Warriors are in pool three with Saracens, Lyon and Cardiff Blues.
And co-captain Callum Gibbins has warned his teammates that Saracens will head north on Sunday and play a “very physical style of rugby” in their opener.
The 30-year-old Kiwi leads the Warriors from the back-row alongside Ryan Wilson and he said: “You always want to test yourselves against the best and we have been saying to the boys ‘be prepared for the very physical style of rugby that is coming our way’.
“As a player and for the club in general it is great to play against the bigger English sides and Saracens are right up there.
“They have done well in this competition in recent years and we respect that, but in the last couple of weeks we have played some better stuff in the Guinness PRO14 and we want to try and keep that going.”
Meanwhile, head coach Dave Rennie admires the way that Saracens value possession so much.
“Saracens will ask a lot of question of us, they are prepared to go an inch at a time, really take their time and build up attacks and they are a massive team with a lot of firepower,” Rennie stated.
“It will be the kind of challenge we expect at this level and the kind of challenge we want to get better as a team.
“Obviously Saracens have a huge history in this competition, but it is nice to have them at home first up, the ground will be packed out and it will be a good test which we have to focus in on from minute one.”