Harlequins given kind draw in Cup
English champions Harlequins have been drawn with Biarritz, Connacht and Zebre in a kind draw for the group stages of next season's Heineken Cup.
Biarritz will provide the stiffest opposition in Pool Three, which is also made up of Ireland's weakest province Connacht and Italian side Zebre, who have replaced Aironi Rugby in the RaboDirect PRO12.
While the participation of English and French clubs in the tournament for the next two seasons are guaranteed, their ongoing involvement has been placed in doubt.
Premier Rugby yesterday confirmed their intention to withdraw from the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups after giving notice, effective from June 1, under the terms of the European Rugby Cup Accord.
The notice period expires at the end of the 2013/2014 tournament at which time the Accord will terminate.
The English clubs - and their French counterparts - are concerned by the format of the competitions and the qualification process.
"We hope that there will now be an urgent dialogue about the future of European cup rugby, including qualification, competition formats and ambition to expand into new markets," Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said.
Saracens face a challenge to qualify for the knockout stages after being picked alongside last season's semi-finalists Edinburgh and two-time winners Munster in Pool One.
Heineken Cup pool stage:
Pool 1: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro.
Pool 2: Toulouse, Leicester, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso.
Pool 3: Biarritz, Harlequins, Connacht, Zebre.
Pool 4: Northampton, Ulster, Glasgow, Castres.
Pool 5: Leinster, Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter.
Pool 6: Cardiff, Toulon, Sale, Montpellier.