Irish provinces discover their pool stages fate for Champions and Challenge Cups
Some tasty fixture in there.
There are some enthralling, and testing fixtures ahead - in both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup - for the Irish provinces. The addition of South African sides, from the United Rugby Championship, have considerably enlivened matters.
When all the team balls and pool balls had been drawn, it was a Pool A draw against Gloucester and Racing 92 for Leinster. Ulster are in Pool B and their games are against La Rochelle and Sale Sharks. Munster, meanwhile, will face Toulouse and Northampton Saints.
Harlequins will square off against Sharks and Racing 92, while three-time champions Saracens get cracks at Edinburgh and Lyon. Premiership champions Leicester Tigers will meet Clermont and Ospreys in their pool games.
Declan Kidney's London Irish will face Top 14 champions Montpellier and United Rugby Championship winners, the Stormers. Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle won the Champions Cup, only a few weeks ago. They start their cup defence against Ulster and Northampton.
CHAMPIONS CUP POOLS
Pool A: Castres, Saracens, Bulls | Bordeaux, Harlequins, Leinster | Racing 92, Gloucester, Cell C Sharks | Lyon, Exeter Chiefs, Edinburgh
Pool B: Montpellier, Leicester Tigers, Stormers | Toulouse, Northampton, Ulster | La Rochelle, Sale Sharks, Munster | Clermont, London Irish, Ospreys
The last five winners of the competition have been Leinster, Saracens, Exeter Chiefs, Toulouse and La Rochelle.
Connacht learn Challenge Cup fate
Connacht will fancy their chances of reaching the Challenge Cup knock-out stages, after being drawn against Newcastle Falcons and Brive.
Pool A, in which they have been drawn, has heavy-hitters Toulon and Bristol Bears, but the Westerners will be confident of totting up a decent points return in their four outings.
Bath, who will be coached by Johann van Graan next season, have been tasked with taking on Glasgow Warriors and Toulon. Wasps have a decidedly more palatable set of fixtures against Bayonne and Dragons RFC.
The clubs in both competitions have been divided into Pools A and B and are not allowed play sides from their own leagues. There will be four pool stage games - two home and away against two separate opponents - before the competition moves to the knock-out stages.
CHALLENGE CUP POOLS
Pool A: Glasgow, Toulon, Bristol | Connacht, Cardiff, Brive, Newcastle | Perpignan, Zebre, Bath.
Pool B: Scarlets, Section Paloise, Dragons | Lions, Treviso, Stade Francais, Worcester | Bayonne, Wasps, Cheetahs.
The pool stage games will be staged in December of this year and January 2023. The EPCR will release all the dates, times and TV plans for these fixtures in the coming weeks.
The Challenge Cup Final takes place in the Aviva Stadium on Friday, May 19 with the Champions Cup following on Saturday at the same venue, in Dublin.