Moving on to Pool 3, we rate the chances of Bath, Montpellier, Aironi and champions Leinster.
Coach: Sir Ian McGeechan
Ground: The Recreation Ground
Strengths: With good quality throughout the squad, Bath have a strong chance of qualifying for the knockout stages this year. The arrival of Stephen Donald at fly-half will add some class at number 10, whilst young guns Carl Fearns and Francois Louw will terrorise the breakdown. McGeechan has been there and done it before in this competition, so a strong finish would be a good building block in yet another attempt to get Bath back to the glory days.
Weaknesses: There is perhaps a heavy reliance on Matt Banahan in midfield, and if paired with Dan Hipkiss in the centre then Bath will have a very one-dimensional attack. The return of playmaker Olly Barkley could prove timely.
One to Watch: Dave Attwood
Eager to prove a point after dropping off the England radar, impressive showings for Bath in the Heineken Cup will help his chances of national recognition. Having moved from Gloucester in the close season, Attwood is very highly rated in some circles.
Heineken Cup Pedigree: Champions back in 1998, Bath’s best finish since then has been reaching the semi-finals in 2006.
Prediction: Whilst they will not win the group, Bath may well finish as one of the best runners-up. 2nd
Coach: Sean Lineen
Ground: Firhill Stadium
Strengths:Without doubt the stronger of the two Scottish sides, Glasgow boast many of their country’s best internationals, including Richie Gray, John Barclay, Ruaridh Jackson and Chris Cusiter. With a strong lineout and industrious workers at the breakdown, Glasgow certainly have the platform to cause problems, whilst the pace of DTH Van Der Merwe outside will be their main attacking threat.
Weaknesses: They are a little bit lightweight upfront at the scrum, whilst Graeme Morrison and Rob Dewey are not exactly centres of the highest quality if not solid performers. They may rely on Jackson’s boot for points more than tries.
One to Watch: Duncan Weir
Another young Scottish fly-half making waves, Weir has started a lot of games so far in the RaboDirect Pro12 this season, and has a bright future ahead of him.
Heineken Cup Pedigree: Apart from when they made the quarter-final playoff back in 1998, Glasgow have never finished higher than 3rd in their Heineken Cup groups.
Prediction: Prone to the odd spectacular away win, Glasgow may cause a surprise. Not enough to progress though. 4th
Coach: Joe Schmidt
Ground: RDS Arena & Aviva Stadium
Strengths: The champions recruited well over the summer, making a strong team stronger. Losing crowd favourites Stan Wright and Nathan Hines was a blow, but having brought in Steven Sykes and Matt Berquist, as well as young Irish talent in Fionn Carr and Sean Cronin, they is no defecit. As a result they have arguably the strongest squad in the competition.
Weaknesses: Losing Brian O’Driscoll for six months leaves them without a leader and a game-changer, but Leinster in reality have enough quality to get through the group stages without him.
One to Watch: Fergus McFadden
Touted earlier this week as the potential candidate to replace O’Driscoll at international level , McFadden is blessed with serious pace and has the talent to cause defences plenty of problems. There will be a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but he can handle it.
Heineken Cup Pedigree: Champions in 2009 and 2011. Four Semi-Finals.
Prediction: Simply far stronger than any of the other teams in their group, Leinster should progress comfortably and could finish as top seeds. 1st
Montpellier Hérault RC
Coach: Fabien Galthié
Ground: Stade Yves-Du-Manoir
Strengths: Last season’s Top 14 finalists were a bit of surprise package, with Montpellier defeating Castres in the quarter-final and Racing Métro 92 in the semi-final both by a single point. A wide ranging international squad includes an all-star back row of Fulgence Ouedraogo, Rémy Martin and Mamuka Gorgodze, whilst Francois Trinh-Duc, who was so impressive coming off the bench during the Rugby World Cup final, pulls the strings alongside Julien Tomas. Other well-known faces include the Argentine trio of Juan Figallo, Santiago Fernández and Lucas González Amorosino.
Weaknesses: Montpellier are slightly weak in the front and second rows compared to their French counterparts, and their inexperience in this competition will pay against them as they adapt.
One to Watch: Timoci Nagusa
The Fijian winger scored a sensational try in last year’s Top 14 final against Toulouse, and has formerly represented Ulster.
Heineken Cup Pedigree: This is Montpellier’s first ever appearance in the tournament.
Prediction: A lot could hinge on their Round 2 result away at Bath. Given that it’s their first year, it would be a surprise if Montpellier progressed. 3rd.