Two sentences on every potential Champions Cup opponent
Just 48 hours to go, Warrior Nation.
That’s all that stands between Glasgow Warriors and discovery of their 2023/24 Heineken Champions Cup opponents, as Wednesday’s pool draw looms into view.
24 teams will learn their pool stage opposition when the draw is conducted at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the venue for the 2024 Heineken Champions Cup Final next May, with teams to be drawn in four pools of six teams.
With the knowledge that teams from the same league will not play each other in the pool stages, here are two sentences on every potential team that your Glasgow Warriors could face in the European pool stages…
Familiar foes to the Warrior Nation after last season’s famous victory at The Rec, 1998 European champions Bath snuck into the Champions Cup on the final day of the Premiership season thanks to a scintillating dismantling of Saracens in front of their home supporters.
With Finn Russell heading to the West Country for 2023/24, Johann van Graan’s men could very well produce some fireworks upon their return to Europe’s top tier.
The surprise package of the French Top14 last season, Bayonne will be competing in the top flight of European rugby for the first time after a 2022/23 campaign that saw them back up their ProD2 promotion with a stunning charge to the top eight.
They may not possess the European heritage as some of their fellow French outfits, but a squad that blends homegrown talent with international stars like the incoming Reece Hodge and Gela Aprasidze should not be underestimated.
French flyer Damien Penaud is the headline acquisition for UBB ahead of 2023/24, as the Top14 semi-finalists look to make their mark on the top tier of European competition.
The art-deco Stade Chaban Delmas remains one of the most eye-catching venues in French rugby, with former France hooker Yannick Bru coming in to take over the role of Head Coach ahead of the new season.
Despite losing global superstars Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau at the end of last season, running rugby is in the Bristol DNA – and with Max Malins and Kalaveti Ravouvou coming in to fill the void left by Radradra and Piutau, don’t expect that to change in 2023/24.
Pat Lam’s men initially missed out on Champions Cup qualification after Bath’s final day heroics, only to be handed a reprieve following London Irish’s move into administration.
Glasgow supporters will need no introduction to the men from Devon, with the two teams having been drawn together in the group stages in 2013/14, 2017/18, 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 – the definition of a familiar foe.
Stuart Hogg’s retirement reduces the number of former Warriors at Sandy Park to just one, with Jonny Gray firmly part of a physical Exeter pack.
One of English rugby’s most entertaining squads will be hoping to produce more European magic, with Quins regularly featuring in Try of the Round highlights reels over the years; the evergreen Danny Care and fly-half Marcus Smith are in charge of playing the piano shifted by a pack skippered by Alex Dombrandt and bolstered by Joe Launchbury for 2023/24.
Former Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Danny Wilson will also call the Stoop – just a well-place spiral kick away from Twickenham – home for next year, having been appointed as the London club’s Coaching Coordinator.
The back-to-back European champions, a squad packed with star quality across the board, one of the most highly-rated coaches in the world and a stadium that has sold out for over 80 consecutive matches.
Safe to say La Rochelle are a club on a roll right now…
Two-time winners of European rugby’s top prize, Leicester’s enduring prestige can be seen everywhere you look at Mattioli Woods Welford Road – the biggest stadium in the English Premiership with a capacity of over 25,000, and a venue that the Warrior Nation will not forget in a hurry after the famous 42-0 win in January 2017.
A star-studded squad containing internationals such as the rampaging Jasper Wiese and ever-elusive Anthony Watson will be looking to improve on last season’s quarter-final exit, with South African World Cup-winner Handre Pollard pulling the strings at fly-half.
One of France’s most popular and populous cities, Lyon’s rugby club has come a long way since first crossing paths with Glasgow Warriors in European competition in the 2018/19 group stages – a season that saw the Warriors do the double over Les Loups.
An already-stacked squad is set to be further bolstered by the arrival of the aforementioned Radradra, alongside fellow flyers Monty Ioane, Thaakir Abrahams and Vincent Rattez, as Lyon signal their intent to make the Champions Cup knockout stages for just the second time.
Another club who can claim to be one of the Premiership’s top attacking teams, Northampton Saints have the capability of unlocking any defence in Europe on their day.
Top prospect Tom Pearson has made the switch to Franklin’s Gardens ahead of 2023/24, joining a squad that also contains Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson and Scottish-qualified fly-half Fin Smith amongst its ranks.
Glasgow’s most recent opponent in European competition could also be their next opponent, with Toulon also making their return to the Champions Cup after a year away.
Whilst Sergio Parisse, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ihaia West and Cheslin Kolbe may have departed from the squad that got the better of the Warriors in the Challenge Cup final, there can be no underestimating the quality of the three-time European champions, as the famous Pilou Pilou chant that precedes every match at the Stade Felix Mayol is set to ring out around Europe once more.
Still chasing that elusive first European trophy, Racing 92’s La Defense Arena remains the envy of many a rugby fan worldwide, the 30,000 capacity stadium’s wall-to-wall big screen and raucous atmosphere now a familiar facet of European rugby.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi is the headline addition to a squad already containing stars such as Gael Fickou and Juan Imhoff, making the Parisians a dangerous prospective opponent for any club.
Not since January 2020 have the Warriors faced off against last season’s Premiership runners-up, a 45-7 victory for a Dave Rennie-led Glasgow squad sending the Warrior Nation home from the AJ Bell Stadium in full voice.
A settled Sharks squad, led by Head Coach Alex Sanderson, can once again call upon the du Preez and Curry brothers to lead the charge, alongside England standouts George Ford and Manu Tuilagi.
English champions for the sixth time in 2022/23, it’s a fourth European title that Mark McCall and his Saracens squad will be seeking to bring back to the StoneX Stadium in 2023/24.
Twice Glasgow’s nemesis at the quarter-final stage, former Warriors Sean Maitland and Callum Hunter-Hill form part of a Sarries playing group as deep as it is talented.
Similar to their fellow Parisians at Racing 92, Stade Francais might still be awaiting a first Champions Cup crown, yet remain a threatening prospect for any prospective pool opponent.
Another squad to return to the top tier after competing in the Challenge Cup in 2022/23, the squad spearheaded by incoming All Black scrum-half Brad Weber and Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez will be hard to miss – and not just because of their unmistakable shirts.
A Toulouse pack containing France internationals Cyril Baille and Thibaut Flament has the job of providing clean ball to a world-class half-back pairing, with Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack thrilling supporters and terrifying defences week in, week out.
The most successful club in the history of the Heineken Champions Cup, arguably no club is more intertwined with the story of European rugby than the men from the Stade Ernest Wallon.
You can watch the 2023/24 Heineken Champions Cup draw live from 12.30pm on Wednesday 21 June, live on epcrugby.tv – sign up for free here.