Rugby Union: Bath to tackle Toulouse

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The Independent Online
THE European Rugby Cup will be bigger than ever when it kicks off in November with 24 teams from six countries taking part in the fifth tournament.

The competition opens on 19-21 November, when the 1998 winners, Bath, host the inaugural victors, Toulouse, in an ex-Champions' Challenge. "The first weekend of next season's European Rugby Cup promises a feast of rugby with great games in each of the six participating countries," said the newly appointed chairman of European Rugby Cup Ltd, Jean-Pierre Lux.

English clubs are back in the 1999-2000 European competitions after opting out of last season's events. Joining Bath and Toulouse in Pool Two are the Welsh Challenge Cup winners, Swansea, and the Italian side Padova. The Bath player-coach, Jon Callard, who scored the only try and kicked the winning penalty when his club won the 1998 European Cup, said: "This draw is tough - seriously tough for us."

The reigning champions, Ulster, face an away trip to the French club Bourgoin while Pool Three also features a battle between the English Cup winners, Wasps, and the Welsh double winners, Llanelli.

EUROPEAN SHIELD - Pool 1: Begles Bordeaux, Bristol, Calvisano, Dax. Pool 2: Bedford, Castres, Italy 3, Newport. Pool 3: Caerphilly, Pau, Perpignan, Sale. Pool 4: Connacht, Ebbw Vale, Romanian XV, Toulon. Pool 5: Biarritz, Bridgend, Gloucester, Spain. Pool 6: Dunvant, Narbonne, Newcastle, Portugal. Pool 7: Agen, Brive, London Irish, Roma.