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."
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