We’re all hoping to look forward to a bright new future in the new season but the European campaign promises a trip down memory lane.
Pau, Calvisano and Cardiff account for 12 previous encounters with Tigers between them and, for fans of a certain age, they still hold some special memories.
With the announcement of the fixtures this week, we now know that Tigers begin the Challenge Cup campaign at home to Pau, before a trip to face Cardiff Blues in Round 2.
The Welsh capital is a familiar destination, though European games against the Blues have not been as frequent as you may think with several encounters in pre-season and the Anglo-Welsh Cup in recent years.
Tigers’ first European Cup Final was, of course, played at what is now the Blues’ home ground, while the trophy was won at the national stadium next door and there was the professional game’s only penalty shootout there on the way to another final in 2009.
Calvisano, meanwhile, host Tigers in the second part of the home-and-away double in December. They were regular rivals in the early years of the millennium and, as results in the era before Italian clubs could join the Celtic League often decided the outcome of the pools, they carried a pressure of their own.
Tigers wins in Italy usually had a tale attached to them – including an introduction to a young prop named Martin Castrogiovanni, the threat of a postponement due to the weather and a year when the team had to wait until they were in the air on the way home before finding out whether they had qualified for the knockout stages. Going there just a week before Christmas
Away trips in Europe are a highlight of the season, with the likes of Munster, Leinster, Racing, Clermont, Perpignan, Toulouse, Toulon and Treviso featuring prominently in supporters’ favourite venues over the years.
For anyone who made the trip in the early years of the European competition, Pau would also be right up there and The Tig is not alone in hearing that title-winning generation talk about wins there as part of their coming of age.
Trips to the Pyrenees are eagerly awaited by tourists but, in the best traditions of French rugby, the hosts like to make life uncomfortable for visitors – for 80 minutes on the pitch anyway – while still sharing their hospitality with supporters. Going there in Round 6 will be a big task but one Tigers will look forward to taking on.
The game and the names in it have changed immeasurably over the years of European competition and this time the four teams do battle in a secondary competition, though we will hope that more memories can be made in 2019/20.