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Champions Cup: Kiss' troops are already on Toulouse chief's radar

By Jonathan Bradley

Toulouse coach Ugo Mola is eagerly anticipating his side's meetings with Ulster and Saracens in the pool stage of the Champions Cup.

The competition begins this weekend with Mola - who replaced long-time coach Guy Noves at the Stade Ernest-Wallon this season - taking his squad to London for a tie with Saracens while Les Kiss' men travel to Oyonnax.

After an all-Top14 clash next week, Toulouse then take on Ulster in a December double-header.

For Mola, the clashes against the sides from the home unions represent the true spirit of European competition.

"The only downside that I found in our pool this year is to have a French-French confrontation which removes the international feel," he said at the competition's launch for French sides in Lyon yesterday.

"For once we get to play Saracens, champions of England and runners-up in Europe two seasons ago, and we also play Ulster who are getting stronger and stronger. That's pleasant for us."

European competition has always held a special attraction for Mola, especially after he was part of the Toulouse squad that won the inaugural competition back in 1995.

It was the first of four successes for the French giants, more than any other side, while they have shared some memorable tussles with Ulster in the intervening years, most notably during the Irish province's successful 1999 campaign.

"I have always had a form of affection for the European Cup," Mola continued. "There is a type of rugby played in it which always seems more complete to me.

"It's really a competition for which I have a small soft spot and I always want to succeed in."

With the World Cup influencing the schedule, the pool stages will be played in the space of just 10 short weeks with Mola warning that teams must hit their stride right away.

He added: "It will allow some teams to get in working order very quickly. We feel teams like Toulon and Clermont are already prepared, I hope we are the same."

Belfast Telegraph


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