7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Lawrence Dallaglio's men became champions of Europe at Twickenham in May when they beat another French side, the holders Toulouse, and they will be the top seeded team in Pool 1 for the 10th anniversary season of the Heineken Cup.
"It's great to be able to start with a home game to launch our title defence. Now we know just how hard it is to win the Heineken Cup we won't be taking anything for granted as we try to match Leicester Tigers' feat of making it back-to-back victories," said Wasps skipper Lawrence Dallaglio.
"Biarritz were French champions two years ago and showed their class by beating Llanelli Scarlets away from home in the quarter-finals last season. They are bound to give us a really tough opener.
"The games against Leicester Tigers are going to be huge affairs. We know each other inside out and there is a massive amount of respect for what they have achieved at Leicester.
"There will be some great match-ups in our two Pool matches and I'm sure both games will be sell-outs. It will be the first time two English sides have met in the Pool stages and there will be a lot of domestic pride at stake.
"As for the Italian championship runners-up Calvisano, we know not to expect an easy ride against them having conceded five tries against them away from home last season. They won't be an easy touch for any of the teams in the Pool."
The Tigers, who took the final qualifying place among the seven gained by England for the forthcoming season, will start their campaign at Welford Road when they host Calvisano - a team they have met four times in the past three seasons.
Heineken Cup rugby will return to The Recreation Ground for the first time since Bath were beaten 27-10 by Llanelli in the quarter-finals of the 2001-02 tournament - a campaign in which the English side were the only team to go through the Pool stages unbeaten - when they host Bourgoin in the opening round of matches in Pool 2.
Bath have a good record against French opposition in the Heineken Cup having lost only once at home in five previous outings, against Toulouse, and lost only once on French soil, in a Pool game in Brive. They made ample amends for that blemish in Brive in the 1997-98 season by going on to beat the reigning champions 19-18 in the final in Bordeaux.
New Leinster coach Declan Kidney, who took Munster to two Heineken Cup finals, will have an away trip to face the Italian champions Benetton Treviso to contemplate for his first European assignment with the Dublin-based side. No doubt the veteran backrow man Victor Costello will have a few words of advice for his team mates ahead of his side's Italian job.
The Irish international was in the Leinster side which made its debut in the Heineken Cup in its inaugural season in Italy against Milan. On that occasion Leinster triumphed 24-21, but on their next trip to Italy, two seasons later, they were beaten by a point, 33-32, in Milan.
Last season's beaten finalists, Toulouse - the club with a record 63 appearances in the Heineken Cup - couldn't have picked a tougher task for their opening game in Pool 3. They will break new ground when they travel to Stradey Park to face the Llanelli Scarlets.
Although the three-times finalists, and European champions in 1996 and 2003, have a good record against Welsh opposition, they have lost three times - at Ebbw Vale, Cardiff and Newport - on six trips to Wales. However, they can boast an extra-time victory over Cardiff in the inaugural final at the Arms Park.
For their part, the Scarlets have yet to lose a Pool match at home against French opposition in nine starts, although they have lost successive quarter-finals at Stradey Park to Perpignan and Biarritz Olympique.
Glasgow Rugby will return to the Heineken Cup after a season away and will be boosted by the capture of one of London Wasps' winning squad of last season, Kenny Logan. The experienced Scottish international wing could find himself up against his old England adversary Ben Cohen on the opening day of the European season as Glasgow host Northampton Saints at Hughenden.
There won't be any need for the players or fans of three of the teams in Pool 4 to introduce themselves to each other because Castres Olympique, Munster and NEC Harlequins all figured in the same Pool in the 2001-02 campaign.
The "odd team out" are the Neath-Swansea Ospreys, although the two clubs who came together to form the new region both have experience of facing the other three sides in previous years. The Ospreys, who have recruited Welsh internationals Brent Cockbain and Sonny Parker during the summer, will be seeking their first away win when they travel to Castres in round one.
Meanwhile, Munster will put their proud unbeaten home run of 24 Heineken Cup wins at Limerick's world renowned Thomond Park on the line when they entertain the newly crowned European Challenge Cup winners, NEC Harlequins. The Quins were beaten 23-16 in Limerick in the 1997-98 campaign after winning 48-40 at The Stoop.
World Cup wonder Jonny Wilkinson will return to the Heineken Cup for only his second crack at Europe's top tournament when he leads the English Cup winners Newcastle Falcons, into action against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade in Pool 5.
The Falcons picked up only one Pool win in their debut season in the Heineken Cup in 2001-02 and were beaten home and away by Newport, one of the two clubs who merged to form The Dragons. Wilkinson played in the 34-21 home defeat, but missed the 53-17 mauling in Wales.
In the other opening game in Pool 5, last season's ground-breaking Scottish side Edinburgh Rugby, who reached the quarter-finals for the first time, will have to bag another 'first' if they are to win in Perpignan. While the 2003 Heineken Cup runners-up, and last weekend's losing French Championship finalists, have never met Scottish opposition before in their four previous Heineken Cup runs, Edinburgh have yet to win on French soil.
They have lost on all eight excursions to France, including four trips to Toulouse and two to Biarritz, yet picked up their first French scalp last season when they beat the then reigning champions Toulouse at Meadowbank.
Former French Grand Slam skipper Fabien Galthie will at least have home advantage for his European coaching baptism when the French Champions Stade Francais Paris host Gloucester in the opening round of Pool 6.
Galthie took up the coaching reins from Nick Mallett in the wake of Stade's victory over Perpignan at Stade de France last weekend that enabled them to hold onto the French title. It will be the first time the Paris-based side has met Gloucester, who will be seeking to become only the second side in 19 Heineken Cup outings to win at Stade Jean Bouin.
It will be the third time in five seasons that Cardiff have met Ulster and the 1999 European champions, and current holders of the Celtic Cup, will be looking to build on their double over their Welsh rivals in the 2002-03 campaign when they host the Blues at Ravenhill in round one.
It will be a tough start for new Ulster coach Mark McCall, who figured at outside half for the Ulstermen in the very first Heineken Cup tie to be played in Cardiff in the 1995-96 season. On that occasion the home side won 46-6 on their way to the inaugural final, although Ulster hold a 2-0 lead in European matches played in Belfast.