SAR­RIES HANDED TOUGH DRAW

Daily Mail - - Rugby Union - CHRIS FOY

SARA­CENS were yes­ter­day handed a du­bi­ous re­ward for their sen­sa­tional sea­son with a place in a clas­sic Heineken Cup ‘pool of death’. The Wat­ford-based club — whose re­vival un­der Bren­dan Ven­ter led them all the way to this year’s Guin­ness Premier­ship fi­nal — face a daunt­ing task in try­ing to qual­ify for the quar­ter-fi­nals of Europe’s blue riband event. At yes­ter­day’s draw in Cardiff, they were pitched against 2009 win­ners Le­in­ster, French cham­pi­ons Cler­mont Au­vergne and the up­wardly mo­bile Parisians, Rac­ing Metro. Yet, Sar­ries are not the only English side fac­ing an oner­ous or­deal if they are to reach the last eight. London Ir­ish have also been thrown in at the deep end. Toby Booth’s men are up against two of the Celtic heavy­weights — Mun­ster and the Ospreys — and, as if that was not enough, they have Jonny Wilkin­son’s Toulon to con­tend with. The wealthy Cote d’Azur club were beaten fi­nal­ists in the re­cent Am­lin Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal but their ex­pen­sively as­sem­bled, cos­mopoli­tan squad will be even more pow­er­ful next sea­son. Philippe Saint-An­dre has bol­stered his ranks with mighty All Black tight­head Carl Hay­man, for­mer Wal­laby flanker Ge­orge Smith and Eng­land wing Paul Sackey. Else­where, Wasps will go head-to-head with reign­ing cham­pi­ons Toulouse, and Bath are in Pool Four with this sea­son’s beaten fi­nal­ists Biar­ritz. Cardiff Blues, the Chal­lenge Cup win­ners, will spear­head the Welsh as­sault, with Northamp­ton their lead­ing ri­vals in Pool One, and the Scar­lets must face Le­ices­ter and Per­pig­nan as a prize of sorts for sneak­ing into the tour­na­ment by the back door.

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