Connacht Rugby is already swinging into gear to cope with an expected increase in supporters after the province drew European blue-bloods Toulouse in Tuesday’s Heineken Cup draw. Covering for the east terrace at the Galway Sportsground is expected to start within the next two weeks to ensure the College Road venue is more conducive to Heineken Cup rugby fans who will welcome four-times European champions Toulouse later this year. Connacht, in tier four of the 24 teams, has been grouped with the current French champions Toulouse, Amlin Cup winners Harlequins, and Gloucester, who finished third in the English premiership.
Coach Eric Elwood has been given the draw he wanted, but he is now anxiously awaiting for the fixture list which will be released in July.
“Yes, it’s the draw we dreamed about. No matter who we were playing, it was always going to be difficult, so to have Toulouse, the best team in the competition, come to the Sportsground - we could not have asked for anything better.
“Now we will await the draw to see who we are facing in the back-to-back fixtures. That will present a challenge for us and our resources, particularly as it comes just before two interprovincial matches in the Magners League.”
Harlequins and Connacht have met on several occasions in the Amlin Cup, and Gloucester hosted Connacht in the pre-season two years ago, but Elwood says both are tough opponents who will bring their exciting brand and supporters to Galway.
“We are just happy we have not drawn a Magners League side - that could have detracted from the impact of us playing in the Heineken Cup for the first time. There is a great buzz in the province which is what playing Heineken Cup rugby is all about.”
Elwood insists the Magners League remains the top priority, and hopes the Heineken Cup will provide his squad with a competitive edge and excitement that will be transferred to the league.
“Hopefully the players will be coming back ready to train hard which is always a difficult period. Everyone will want to play in the Heineken Cup matches which will add an extra edge to training and competition for places.”