GLOUCESTER'S head coach Dean Ryan is relishing the prospect of facing French powerhouses Biarritz, Welsh giants Cardiff and Italian side Calvisano in the 2008-09 Heineken Cup.
The Kingsholm club were drawn in Pool Six at the competition launch today and Ryan said: "We are involved in Europe's elite club competition and as such realised we would face sides of real calibre and quality.
"Biarritz are a hugely powerful and organised side, have a history in the competition that would be the envy of a lot of clubs and contested a final only three seasons ago. Their threat, particularly at home, is an obvious one.
"They have a tremendous pedigree and their home record is as good as anything in the competition. It will be a huge examination for us but one we will relish as we develop as a side.
Gloucester have never faced Biarritz in the Heineken Cup but have played Cardiff three times - once at the quarter-final stage in 2000-01 when they won 21-15 at Kingsholm and then again in the pool stages in 2004-05.
Gloucester won both encounters - 23-19 at home and then 23-16 at the Arms Park.
"There is obvious spice with an Anglo-welsh contest against Cardiff," Ryan added. "They are always unique occasions; they are a fantastic side who also have a real passion and understanding about this competition and I am sure the Heineken Cup will bring the best out of both teams.
"Both games will generate huge interest from the supporters, the rivalry is fierce and I think it will be a great advert for the competition.
"We have not faced an Italian side since we played Treviso in the pool stages in 2003-04 but Italian rugby is improving all the time, they are massively competitive at home and will relish the opportunity to take us on.
"I think we face a variety of opponents, some of which are new to us, and that will only add to the excitement."
Speaking to the media following the 31-33 West Country Challenge Cup defeat to Exeter Chiefs at the Memorial Stadium, Director of Rugby David Humphreys was full of praise for his side's battling qualities in a bruising encounter but concerned about the injuries picked up.
The West Country Challenge Cup fixture against the Exeter Chiefs at the Memorial Stadium in Bristol on Saturday (kick off 3pm) will be Gloucester's last chance to work on things like new combinations says Director of Rugby, David Humphreys.
Speaking after the 30-21 West Country Challenge Cup defeat at Bath, Director of Rugby David Humphreys spoke of the improvements his team are making as preseason progresses but acknowledges that there is still work to do ahead of the start of the Aviva Premiership.
Speaking to the local media ahead of Saturday's trip to Bath Rugby in the West Country Challenge Cup, front rower Nick Wood spoke of the hard work put in across the extended preseason and highlighted the competition for front row spots in the squad.
Gloucester have named a 30 man squad for the latest round of West Country Challenge Cup action against Bath on Saturday, with Director of Rugby David Humphreys stressing the need to keep an eye on player workload ahead of what will be a long, tough season.
Describing the 50-7 West Country Challenge Cup win over Bath on Sunday as a '...good hit out...', wing Charlie Sharples admitted that it had been a good opportunity to put into practice things that the squad have been trying out in training in recent weeks.
Speaking to the local media after the 50-7 victory over Bath Rugby on Sunday, David Humphreys was happy with his squad's effort, with the most important aspect being the game time earned by his players.
Gloucester make wholesale changes to the side that started at Exeter last Saturday as they prepare to take on Bath at the Memorial Stadium, Bristol on Sunday in the West Country Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm). The Director of Rugby told GRTV that the players are raring to go and that he's looking forward to seeing different combinations in action.
A late penalty from Exeter fly-half Will Hooley gave the Chiefs a narrow 33-31 West Country Challenge Cup win over a heroic Gloucester outfit in a bruising encounter at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Gloucester Rugby will play their fourth and final West Country Challenge Cup fixture this weekend (Memorial Stadium, Bristol, 3pm) against the Exeter Chiefs, and have named a side featuring a host of first regulars.
On Wednesday evening, Gloucester Rugby duo Mark Atkinson and Tom Savage visited local rugby club Hardwicke and Quedgeley Harlequins RFC for the first session as part of the Gloucester Rugby in Local Clubs coaching initiative.