RUGBY: Ulster ready to embrace tough European challenge says Les Kiss

Ieuan Evans and Dimitri Yachvilli make the pool draws for the 2016-2017 EPCR European Rugby Champions Cup & European Rugby Challenge Cup
Ieuan Evans and Dimitri Yachvilli make the pool draws for the 2016-2017 EPCR European Rugby Champions Cup & European Rugby Challenge Cup

Director of rugby, Les Kiss, is excited about the prospect of next season’s European Champions Cup and said Ulster are ready to embrace the challenge ahead

The Irish province were given a tough draw in Pool Five along with last year’s English Premiership runners-up Exeter Chiefs and two Top 14 sides, Clermont and Bordeaux-Begels.

Facing two French sides will prove difficult for Ulster but the prospect of facing Exeter has added interest with former Ulster players Ian Whitten and Gareth Steenson on their books.

Kiss took the helm as director at Kingspan last season just as the club began their European campaign - suffering a heavy loss at home to eventual winners Saracens.

But back-to-back wins over Toulouse and two wins over Oyonnax saw Ulster pipped at the post by a point to be one of the best three runners up to make the quarter-finals.

“We were bitterly disappointed last year with how things finished,” said Kiss.

“Looking at the draw for this season, it is quite exciting really.

“Exeter did exceptionally well in the Premiership last season. Rob Baxter has built a really strong squad that play a great brand of rugby.

“To welcome them here to Kingspan will be fantastic. We also have them in a pre-season friendly do we will get to know each other really well.

“Clermont are one of the big teams of Europe so you just have to respect what you have in that.

“Clermont over there are tough without a doubt and there are no easy games in France with Bordeaux to come as well.

“It is a fairly tough draw, but it is not an easy competition and we are looking forward to it.

“We know the type of rugby Bordeaux play and what they aspire too. They like to play on a firm surface.

“We hope the weather conditions are good when they come here because we love to play on that surface too.

“We know what Clermont can do and Exeter have displayed good form all through last season.

“It we get some decent conditions here at Kingspan the fans should be in for a treat,” enthused Kiss.

Champions Cup draw

Pool One - Racing 92, Glasgow, Leicester, Munster

Pool Two - Connacht, Wasps, Toulouse, Zebre

Pool Three - Saracens, Toulon, Scarlets, Sale Sharks

Pool Four - Leinster, Montpellier, Northampton, Castres

Pool Five - Exeter, Clermont Auvergne, Ulster, Bordeaux-Begles.

Challenge Cup draw

Pool One - La Rochelle, Gloucester, Treviso, Bayonne

Pool Two - Ospreys, Grenoble, Newcastle, Lyon

Pool Three - Brive, Worcester, Newport Gwent Dragons, Enisei STM

Pool Four - Cardiff Blues, Bath, Pau, Bristol

Pool Five - Harlequins, Edinburgh, Stade Francais, Timisoara Saracens.