New Stade Francais Paris coach Ewen McKenzie is getting "nervous" as his first Heineken Cup campaign approaches - even though his side are six points clear at the top of the French Championship.
The 1991 Australian World Cup winner is all set to swap the Super 14 - he led the Waratahs into this summer's final - for Europe's finest next week when he takes his new team to Belfast.
And even though the Wallabies' most capped prop has played in the northern hemisphere before, spending two seasons at Paris University, he realizes he will be treading into unchartered waters in Round 1 at Ravenhill on Saturday, 11 October..
"It is all new for me because it will be the first time I have been involved with the Heineken Cup. I've followed the tournament over the past few years and I'm really looking forward to getting involved with it," said McKenzie, speaking at the French Launch of this season's tournament in Paris.
"The team is used to the competition, but I'm a little bit nervous at the moment. We are facing some major challenges in our Pool and we will need to take them one at a time. "The Heineken Cup is a much coveted trophy, so the pressure is on. It doesn't help the nerves that we start against Ulster in Ravenhill at a ground where we've never won before.
"I went to see Ulster play against the Ospreys last weekend, but that result isn't going to fool me. They are going to be a tough side to beat on their own patch.
"We've started well this season and won six games in a row - four on the road. We're trying to encourage a winning culture and it is important to win away from home."
Ulster hold a 4-0 advantage over the Parisians in Belfast, although they have yet to beat them away from home. The two teams first met in the 1999 semi-final at Ravenhill, when Ulster won 33-27, and then they met three times in four seasons.
In the 2001/02 campaign the Ulstermen won 19-16 on home soil, it was 22-20 in 2003/04 and 18-10 the next season.
Heineken Cup newcomers Montauban also travel to Ireland for the opening weekend as they make their debut in the tournament at the newly completed Thomond Park. No French team has won in Limerick in the Heineken Cup and Head Coach Laurent Labit is hoping his players will learn from entering the hottest cauldron of them all in European rugby.
"It is an amazing honour for us to even be in this tournament. We have only been in the Top 14 for three years and to think we are going to be the first team to play at the new Thomond Park is unbelievable," said Labit.
"We are hoping to learn as much as we can from the tournament. We are a small club and will be looking more to learning and improving than to becoming instant giant killers. "We know Munster are an extremely strong team. We have seen them play many times and they have fantastic quality all over the pitch."
It is going to be a tough baptism for Montauban as there are two French teams in the Pool and the quartet is made up of two times European Challenge Cup winners Sale Sharks. No wonder, then, that ASM Clermont Auvergne Director of Rugby, Jean-Marc Lhermet, described Pool 1 as this season's 'Pool of Death'.
The only team to lower the colours of eventual champions Munster last season - they followed up their 36-13 defeat at Thomond Park with a 26-19 triumph at Stade Marcel Michelin - they kick-off with a home game against Sale Sharks.
"We know exactly how strong Munster are having played against them last year, but Sale are also formidable. We all know about Sebastien Chabal and the rest," said Lhermet. "People have described this as the Pool of Death and it does seem as though it is going to be very tough to get out of it. But we will attack the opposition with everything we have got."
Last season's quarter-finalists Perpignan may still be waiting for New Zealand star Dan Carter to arrive to play for them, but coach Jacques Brunel is adamant his squad has hat it takes to get out of Pool 3, where they meet Benetton Treviso, Leicester Tigers and the Ospreys.
"The lost quarter-final last season was bitterly disappointing for us. But we think even before the arrival of Dan Carter we are capable of getting out of this Pool," said Brunel.
"A quarter-final in Barcelona has been the ambition of this club for a very long time, but as a coach it is very difficult to look past the away games at the Ospreys and Leicester.
"I saw the Ospreys play Ulster at the weekend and, to have beaten an Irish team so convincingly shows that they are going to be very, very tough to beat."
The last time the Heineken Cup final was staged in Edinburgh it ended up being an all-French affair, with Toulouse beating Stade Francais Paris after extra-time. Having lost to Munster in last season's final in Cardiff, three times champions and five times finalists Toulouse are once again setting their sights on the main event.
"We are extremely proud of our reputation in Europe. Having lost the final last year we are certainly looking to go as far as we can this season," admitted backs coach Philippe Rouge-Thomas.
"We have strengthened our squad and hopefully this will enable us to compete at full tilt in the knock-out stages of both the Heineken Cup and the Top 14."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.