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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Perpignan are still right in the mix, despite going down 23-13 at the Dragons in Round 2, and will be out to turn up the heat with their back-to-back matches against I Cavalieri Prato.
But the contests at Sandy Park and then Rodney Parade could be pivotal to the outcome of one of the most keenly contested Pools.
"We really enjoy the European occasions, and, when you look at our group it could be a Heineken Pool," said centre Ashley Smith. "The Amlin Challenge Cup is a tough competition - it is just as tough as we found in previous years in the Heineken Cup.
"Obviously we were disappointed not to make it into the Heineken Cup but at the start of the season we targeted the Amlin Challenge Cup.
"We looked at the tournament and decided we were going to give it our all and try to qualify and reach the knock-out stages.
"As coach Darren Edwards has said we had struggled in previous years in the Heineken Cup so this gives us a chance to work hard in Europe, improve our form - especially on the road - and try to make some progress.
"We could hardly have asked for a better start in Europe, to get a bonus point over in Italy and then to back that up with a home performance and win against Perpignan that was huge.
"But that will mean nothing if we don't carry that form on so we need to continue and that starts with two huge games against Exeter Chiefs.
"And we know that is a pretty tough double-header for us. Exeter are doing very well in the English Premiership and have started well in Europe as well and put in a good performance out in France.
"It is going to be a big old typical derby, England against Wales. We are in pretty close proximity so there should be two big, passionate crowds for the matches.
"Whether those games are going to decide the group I don't know but obviously we are going all out and it could put us in a good place if we win."
Both clubs are only in their second seasons in the Amlin Challenge Cup, Exeter Chiefs making their European debut last season while the Dragons contested the 2006 / 2007 competition when they reached the last four, beating Brive 39-17 in the quarter-finals before going down 46-19 at eventual winners ASM Clermont Auvergne.
Fellow centre Phil Dollman was with the Dragons that season and played in the tournament and could now face some of his former team-mates.
"Phil is still down there and it would be great if he played," said Smith. "He was here for a couple of years, is a top bloke and that would add something else to the match because since he went down there he has been very successful."