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."
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.
Monday evening saw Freddie Clarke in A League action against Exeter, Saturday saw him make his Aviva Premiership debut. And both games resulted in wins! Freddie spoke to GRTV after the 39-30 win over Sale.
Billy Burns will get the headlines for his 16 point haul, but it was a team of heroes who went to La Rochelle and fought like demons to secure a magnificent 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win on Saturday evening.
Gloucester Rugby welcome back scrum-halves Willi Heinz and Greig Laidlaw to the matchday squad as they make five changes to their starting line-up for Saturday evening's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final against Stade Rochelais.