Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin made no attempt to hide his excitement on learning who will provide his team’s Heineken Cup opposition when European club rugby’s premier tournament kicks off in November.
The draw has pitched Ulster against Leicester Tigers, ASM Clermont Auvergne and Aironi, with the group-stage matches starting after the World Cup final.
“As a coach and as a player these are the games you want to be involved in,” said McLaughlin.
“This is the sort of opposition you want to face, these are the kind of occasions you work towards.”
He added: “It’s going to be really exciting for the players to be facing a tried and tested team of Leicester’s calibre or coming up against a side like Clermont who play an exceptional brand of rugby.
“This gives us a great chance to prove just how much of an improvement we have made. We said we wanted to dine at the top table and, in view of the group we find ourselves in, that’s exactly what we will be doing.
“We’ve said we welcome challenges and they certainly don’t come any bigger than to be facing the likes of Leicester and Clermont, two of Europe’s top sides.
“Nor can Aironi be taken lightly. They have just signed half-a-dozen players so clearly they are going to be even tougher than last season.
“It’s a tough group — but there are no easy ones.”