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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Heineken Cup 2006-07



Llanelli ScarletsLondon IrishToulouseUlster

LLANELLI SCARLETS

"Time supported unknown, lost in the mists of time as the old Llanelli RFC and now the Scarlets"

Key Player: Steven Jones has come back from France as the complete number 10, with great confidence in colouring the play as well as being solid defensively. Regan King is also in tremendous form at the moment offering a real cutting edge to the Scarlets back line.

Young star: Gavin Evans, definitely one for the future, strong and athletic as well as young, he is also linking up very well at the moment with Regan King in the centres.

Expectations: Would be considered a bad season if the Scarlets did not make at least the quarter-finals

Coach: Phil Davies has had good results since joining the Scarlets in the summer. He is well respected within the game in Wales and should do well in both the Magners league and European cup.

Match Day: Guaranteed to be a sell-out for any Heineken Cup games with an awesome atmosphere squeezed into what is by today's standards a reasonably small ground.

AOB: As many of you will be aware, the Scarlets are in financial trouble at the moment as a consequence of the wrangling over the building of a new ground or rather the need to build houses on the current ground to finance the building of the new stadium. Hopefully this will not impact too much on the on-field performances and needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.

LONDON IRISH

"I'm 22 and have been supporting London Irish for five years"

Key player: Ball in hand, Riki Flutey is perhaps the most dangerous 10 in the Premiership. He can jink past players, put people in space and his massive clearances can ease the pressure on the defence. His arrival last season was the catalyst in ending our reputation as bore merchants and turning us into the team that scored the most tries in the league.

Young star: Our academy is churning future England stars out at the moment, but the hottest by far is Topsy Ojo. On his second Premiership appearance he scored arguably the try of the season dancing his way through the entire Bath team. On his England U21 debut he came on at half time and scored four tries. Nuff said!

Expectations: Well, this only our second foray into the HC, so it's mostly about gaining the experience of playing at the highest level to drive us on. Also getting a group of Llanelli, Ulster and Toulouse hasn't helped matters! Making it past the group stages would bring a wide smile.

Coach: Brian Smith joined us at the beginning of last season and what an impact he had! The board gave him money to spend and he made some very shrewd investments (Flutey, Magne, Leguizamon). But generally he lifted the doom and gloom surrounding the club. He got us playing some champagne rugby through some great tactics, but also by restoring hope and making players believe in their abilities.

Match day: The Madjeski, or MadStad, is ordinarily a soulless concrete bowl. Except when Irish play there and the craic is flowing! There's usually a band playing in the "Cowshed" before and after the game, and activities for kids. Since it's a football stadium, the food and drink is rubbish and a rip-off, so make sure you ask for a freshly poured Guinness, not one that's been sat there forever! There's some great singing, a collection of drummers and the friendliest fans you could ever meet!

TOULOUSE

"I've been supporting Toulouse for four years since living out there"

Key player: Yannick Jauzion - one of the finest centres in world rugby. He could step up to take the fly half role in the pool matches due to injuries to Michalak and Dubois.

Young star: There are many promising players coming up from the youth team, coached by former France international Emile Ntamack. But look out Maxime Medard and Yoann Huget to make a big impression this season

Expectations: Last season was not good for Toulouse, suffering a shock home defeat to a good Leinster side. This season they will expect to go one stage further at least such is the expectations on the team in France.

Coach: Guy Noves is Mr Toulouse and has seen it all and won it all with the club. There's strong speculation he could take the national job after the World Cup.

Match day: Whether at Le Stadium or Sept Deniers, a great atmosphere is always assured in Toulouse. Visiting fans are always made welcome and there are many great pubs and restaurants to visit in the city.

ULSTER

"An Ulster supporter for a long as I can remember"

Key player: Despite his 35 years, David Humphreys is still the man that makes Ulster tick.

Young star: Andrew Trimble broke into the Ireland team after only one season in the Ulster squad last year. After a promising debut season, it could be Stephen Ferris's turn to do the same.

Expectations: Since winning it in 1999 we haven't got past the group stage. So that would do quite nicely.

Coach: Mark McCall - a solid if unspectacular centre in the late 1980s, early 1990s, he has succeeded in fusing some outstanding local talent with hard-edged, experienced pros such as Justin Harrison and Paul Steinmetz.

Match day: The 'Ravenhill Roar' is always in full voice come the Heineken Cup.



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