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European draw provides "tough challenge"

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Richard Cockerill is braced for "a very tough challenge" in the pool stages of next season's Heineken Cup after Leicester Tigers were drawn alongside Toulouse, Ospreys and Benetton Treviso.

While Tigers reached an eighth successive Premiership Final in 2011/12, Toulouse beat Toulon 18-12 in the French Top 14 final to collect their 19th league title, and the Ospreys collected the RaboDirect Pro12 crown by beating Leinster 31-30.

Italian side Treviso, who have been regular opponents in recent seasons, gained a win over Biarritz Olympique and a draw with the Ospreys in Europe last season and represent another difficult obstacle if Tigers are to reach the knockout stages.

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: “It’s a tough group when you look at the championship-winning teams from Toulouse and Ospreys. And Treviso improve every year and have the majority of the Italian national squad playing there.

“Toulouse have strength in depth, players who can turn games very quickly and the experience of playing in the biggest games. Anyone who can be as consistently good as they are in the French championship and in the Heineken Cup has to be a top-quality side.

“There has been quite a lot of movement at the Ospreys in terms of players and coaches so to still win the league is a fantastic achievement. They beat Leinster in the final which shows just how strong they are.

“Treviso adjusted to the Celtic League very well. They make it tough for you and they’ve beaten some big teams in this competition.

“The Heineken Cup has been a very special tournament in Leicester’s history. We always want to do well in Europe and we will certainly be looking to do that next season.”

Long-serving Toulouse director of rugby Guy Noves said: "It’s a very difficult draw. There are no weak teams in this pool. Leicester has always been one of the major players in this competition, while the Opsreys play the same type of rugby as the Welsh national team who won the Grand Slam."

Steve Tandy, Ospreys head coach, said: “I'm really excited about the challenge of going up against Europe's best teams. There are six European titles in our group, which says all you need to know.

"All the teams can beat each other, but that's what makes it such an exciting pool."

Fixture order, dates and times will be announced by tournament organisers ERC during July.

Pool stage fixtures in the Heineken Cup are included in Leicester Tigers season tickets.

2012/13 Heineken Cup pool draw
Pool 1 – Munster Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby, Saracens, Racing Metro 92
Pool 2 – Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso
Pool 3 – Biarritz Olympique, Harlequins, Connacht Rugby, Zebre
Pool 4 – Northampton Saints, Ulster Rugby, Glasgow, Castres
Pool 5 – Leinster Rugby, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter Chiefs
Pool 6 – Cardiff Blues, Toulon, Sale Sharks, Montpellier

Heineken Cup and Dates 2012/13
Round 1 – October 11/12/13/14
Round 2 – October 18/19/20/21
Round 3 – December 6/7/8/9
Round 4 – December 13/14/15/16
Round 5 – January 10/11/12/13
Round 6 – January 17/18/19/20
Quarter-finals – April 4/5/6/7
Semi-finals – April 26/27/28
Final – May 18