Rugby Union

Alistair Hargreaves exclusive: We're ready for new European format

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Ahead of their clash against Clermont on Saturday, Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves has spoken exclusively to GiveMeSport on his sides chances in the European Champions Cup this season.

Sarries came runners up to Toulon in last year's Heineken Cup - with the French side running out 23-6 winners in the final - and have qualified through into a tough Pool One alongside two time Heineken Cup winners Munster, 2013 finalists and last year's semi-finalist Clermont, and 2005/06 Aviva Premiership champions Sale.

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New format

Five groups of four teams in each make up a new format, with only one team automatically progressing from each group. The remaining three quarter-final places are filled from the three best second placed teams in the five pools.

Recently appointed captain Hargreaves acknowledges the difficulty of the group, but doesn't see any reason why his side can't make it to the knockout stages despite the increased difficulty in the new format.

Hargreaves confidence

"If we play good rugby, and play the way we can, there's no reason why we can't be competing in the knockout stages," he said.

"The aim is to win our group stages and hopefully get into the knockouts.

"It goes without saying it's a tough group, and it's gonna be a hell of a challenge to get through that so we're focused on that."

28-year-old former Springbok Hargreaves was appointed Saracens captain in June of this year after signing for the club in 2012.

Dumping the Heineken Cup

The European Champions Cup replaces the Heineken Cup as Europe's leading rugby competition after the a host of English and French clubs announced that they would be leaving the competition in 2012 as they were unhappy with qualification, revenue distribution and governance.

The future for European Rugby looked dreary until the new format came out, displaying two separate competitions: The Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup make up the different tiers of the competition.

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Clermont Auvergne
Aviva Premiership
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