Earlier this afternoon the draw for the 2015/16 European Champions and Challenge Cup pools took place in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
Whilst there was little in the way of excitement in terms of the actual draw - we know now that Sale Sharks have been drawn with Newport Gwent Dargons, Castres Olympique, and Pau in the Pool Two of the 2015-16 Challenge Cup.
Whilst the draw could have been a lot kinder to Sale - Castres and Pau both have star-studded squads backed by some serious financial power, and Newport are well represented in the Welsh World Cup training squad announced at the start of the month - it is certainly not a catastrophic draw.
Newport are probably the weakest of the four Welsh regional teams currently in operation whilst Pau are the new kids on the block in the Top 14 - they've invested heavily but are at a huge disadvantage in terms of experience of top-flight European rugby with a thoroughly revamped squad (think a better, richer London Welsh). Castres, meanwhile only avoided relegation from the Top 14 last season by the skin of their teeth, surviving on wins totalled alone.
So although at first glance it seems like a pretty tough group for Sale to progress out of - and lets not sugarcoat it, it is - it certainly could have been much tougher for the Sharks as they not only avoided their fellow English teams (although the selection protocols made this inevitable) but other strong favourites Cardiff Blues and Brive.
And although the Challenge Cup may not quite be the attraction to potential supporters that the Champions Cup is, Sale's 2015/16 European campaign will not bereft of star talent that they can market fixtures around. A selection of world-renowned players scheduled to appear at the AJ Bell next season now includes Taupe Faletau (Newport), Colin Slade and Conrad Smith (both Pau), and Sitiveni Sivivatu (Castres). There will also be homecomings for Richie Gray (Castres) and Andy Powell (Newport).
Sale's chances of progression into the latter stages (and this is definitely a competition Sale should be targeting to succeed in as this year's winners gain an automatic spot in the 2016/17 Champions Cup) following this pool draw now revolve around whether they can further strengthen their squad before the Autumn to compete with some impressively built teams and how well their away form holds up in the competition. Sale have the capacity to beat all three of their fellow teams at home, however it will be how well they perform away from the AJ Bell that will eventually determine if they qualify from their group.
Overall, whilst the draw from could have gone both better or worse for Sale, at the very least it should make for some very exciting European rugby next season.