As Richard Cockerill was fond of saying when Edinburgh came from nowhere last season to qualify for the Heineken Champions’ Cup, “we’re in with the big boys now”.
And how. Edinburgh were drawn with two French teams in beaten Top 14 finalists Montpellier and twice champions Toulon, as well as maybe their direct equivalent in the Gallaghers Premiership, Newcastle Falcons.
That makes for plenty of reunions with old friends. Montpellier, of course, are piloted by former Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, who will make a return to Murrayfield two years after he handed the reins to Gregor Townsend.
For Edinburgh head coach Cockerill, there’s also a reunion in facing Toulon, who he coached for six months in between his current tenure and leaving Leicester in January 2017.
The Falcons, who like Edinburgh rose from being a peripheral side in their league to European qualifiers in the space of a season, are as close a draw as Edinburgh could have got, given competition rules meant they couldn’t meet their fellow Scots. Cockerill will lock horns with one of his old mentors, Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards.
There will be little or no expectation for Edinburgh’s inexperienced side on their first return to the main European competition, just as well as getting out a group containing two of Europe’s best-financed clubs in the two French opponents will be tough.
There will be more expectation on Glasgow Warriors, despite being drawn with twice-winners Saracens. The English champions – they defeat Exeter in the Premiership final last month – thrashed the Warriors the only time the Scottish side has qualified for the quarter-finals in Europe, in 2017.
However Dave Rennie will be more happy to see the familiar Cardiff Blues, whom the Warriors beat home and away in the PRO14 last season. The Blues are also breaking in a new coaching team with Danny Wilson having joined the Scotland set-up.
The Warriors’ French opponents are Lyon, who were seventh out of the eight qualifiers from the Top 14. Currently lock Felix Lambey is their only regular in the French national side, although they have signed the highly-rated Crusaders midfield back Charlie Ngatai for the new season.