The Challenge is On!

Edinburgh’s European Challenge Cup pool opposition for the coming season was revealed today as something of a continental grand tour and a real capital challenge - with the Final being held in our home city next May 28.



Scotland’s capital club were drawn into pool 5 of the competition, where Tier 1 team Harlequins, based in England’s capital city, had already been picked. Next up were the team from the French capital, Stade Francais Paris, with Romanian first division winners, Timisoara Saracens, completing the group. A stellar line-up and more reasons - if you needed them - to make sure you get your season ticket sorted now!

Immediately after the draw, head coach Alan Solomons said:

"We’re under no illusions that the presence of Stade Francais and Harlequins make this one of the toughest pools in the competition and we look forward to the challenges that this presents.

“Although we’ve never played Harlequins in European competition before, we have obviously played at Twickenham Stoop in recent years, in the final of the Challenge Cup in 2015, and of course Tim Visser, who we know well, is in their squad.”



Former Edinburgh captain and club centurion Chris Paterson, who scored all the points in the club’s win over Stade Francais [above] when the teams last met in European competition in 2009/10, recalls that season when the team were also pooled with Ulster and Bath.

He said: “We won all our home pool games that year, I remember. That match against Stade, where we won 9-7, was the last pool game and I managed to kick three penalties.”

Running his gaze over this year’s competition he says:

“It’s an exciting pool with a bit of everything and will give Edinburgh a chance to use all their experience to meet different challenges.

“Stade Français and Harlequins will be wanting to play open and expansive rugby. Although the French had a few challenges last season, they were champions the previous season, while the English side are going through a coaching transition and are always a force to be reckoned with.

“Timisoara Saracens, the Romanian club, will provide a really physical confrontation. The Romanian National Team just topped this year’s Nations Cup and Georgia recently returned from an unbeaten tour in the South Pacific where they played Samoa, Fiji and Tonga so that tells you how strong rugby is in eastern Europe.”

Today’s draw took place at European Rugby HQ in Switzerland and the exact date order of the pool games will be confirmed in due course. Meanwhile, weekends-of dates for the competition are as follows:

When are the matches?

Round 1: 13/14/15/16 October


Round 2: 20/21/22/23 October


Round 3: 8/9/10/11 December


Round 4: 15/16/17/18 December


Round 5: 12/13/14/15 January 2017


Round 6: 19/20/21/22 January 2017

Quarter-finals: 30/31 March - 1/2 April 2017 

Semi-finals: 21/22/23 April 2017 

Final: Friday 12 May, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh - tickets on sale now


Timisoara Saracens

The club was founded in 1949 and plays in Timisoara (known as Little Vienna) in the far west of the country. The majority of the players are Romanian nationals, with a small number of New Zealanders, Tongans and South Africans, the latter including Johan Van Wyk of the Blue Bulls. The side is coached by New Zealander Grainger Heitzell. As Romanian first division winners they came through the qualifying competition into the Challenge Cup. Edinburgh most recently played a Romanian side when they played the country’s national team as part of pre-season preparations in August 2015 at the Greenyards.


Stade Francais Paris

The French club were in Edinburgh’s Heineken Cup pool in 2009/10 where each team won their respective home games. The club plays in the Top 14 from their traditional home of Stade Jean-Bouin (Stade de France for the bigger encounters). Known for their flair play, their colourful jerseys (and an equally colourful annual calendar) Italian captain Sergio Parisse led a side last season that includes Pascal Pape and Morne Steyn, under the coaching leadership of Gonzalo Quesada.


Harlequins

A club with a rich heritage, Quins are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year with their 2003 Rugby World Cup winner and former prop forward, Jason Leonard, taking over as President of the RFU later this year. The 2012 Aviva Premiership winners currently list Danny Care, Mike Brown, Joe Marler and Jamie Roberts in their squad, alongside former Edinburgh back-row Netani Talei and winger Tim Visser. Edinburgh have never met the club in European competition.

Written by
Isobel Irvine