Rugby Union

Stuart Hooper exclusive: Bath excited by European Champions Cup challenge

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Bath captain Stuart Hooper is excited about his side's return to the 'top flight of European rugby' and is relishing the opportunity to come up against some of the biggest names on the continent.

The club have had a positive start to the season and currently sit fourth in the Aviva Premiership table, but will come up against stern opposition in Montpellier, Toulouse and Glasgow in Pool 4 of the European Champions Cup. Hooper, however, is ready for the challenge.

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"Montpellier, Toulouse and Glasgow are fantastic European names," he told GiveMeSport.

"We're excited about those trips and bringing them back to the Rec [Recreation Ground] to see what the top european competition can offer."

The English club are not favourites to progress from the group, with Montpellier and Toulouse the backed by the bookies to make it through.

Tough group

But it wouldn't come as a surprise if they were to progress in what has been viewed by some as the closest of the five groups, although the opposition are not a factor for Hooper and his Bath side.

"It's exciting from our point of view," he added. "whoever we got would've been great, we're hugely pleased to be back in the top flight of European rugby."

The European Champions Cup replaces the Heineken Cup this year as Europe's leading club rugby competition after English and French clubs announced they would be quitting the former tournament.

New format

The new format places 20 teams in five groups, with four team in each. The top team from each pool automatically qualifies for the knockout stages, and the three best second placed teams fill the quarter-final spaces, making it very difficult to qualify from the pools.

Bath take on Glasgow in there competition debut on Saturday, and will be hoping they can get of to a winning start against the Pro 12 side currently sitting in second place.

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