The Irish provinces learned today of their pool opponents in the new European club competitions.
Munster and Ulster face an uphill task to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Rugby Champions Cup. It’s a big ask for Anthony Foley in his first year as Munster head coach to lead the Reds out of Pool 1, which contains two other Heineken Cup semi-finalists from last season. Clermont Auvergne and beaten finalists Saracens join Munster and Sale Sharks in the pool.
Ulster’s task is no easier. They must face two time and final Heineken Cup champions Toulon, as well as Leicester Tigers and Llanelli Scarlets in Pool 3.
Leinster look to have the best draw out of the 3 provinces competing in the European Rugby Champions Cup, albeit their task is far from easy either. They face Castres, Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins side and London Wasps in Pool 2.
Jonny Sexton’s Racing Metro must negotiate Pool 5, which contains Northampton, the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso.
Pool 4 contains Glasgow Warriors, Montpellier, Bath and former French powerhouses Toulouse.
The first round of fixtures takes place the 17th, 18th and 19th of October.
In the European Rugby Challenge Cup (the remodel of the Amlin Challenge Cup), Connacht will take on the Exeter Chiefs, Bayonne and La Rochelle in Pool 2.
The remaining pools are as follows:
Pool 1 – Cardiff Blues, London Irish, Grenoble, (Italian team TBC)
Pool 3 – Stade Francais, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Newcastle, (Italian team TBC)
Pool 4 – Edinburgh, Bordeaux-Begles, London Welsh, Lyon
Pool 5 – Gloucester, Brive, Zebra, Oyonnax.