While the upcoming World Cup warm-up matches and the build-up to the tournament in Japan dominate the rugby news headlines over the last few weeks preparations for the upcoming club tournaments continue in the background.
This morning the EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby) announced the schedule for the first six rounds of Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures. This is a departure from previous seasons when only the first four pool games were announced with rounds 5 & 6 traditionally be fixed after the first 4 rounds had been played.
Fans of the four Irish sides involved in this years Heineken Champions Cup tournament can now start planning their trips away in November, December and January. However, both Munster and Ulster fans will have to wait slightly longer for confirmation of their kick-off times for their round 5 trips to France. Racing v Munster and Clermont v Ulster are the only games yet to be confirmed.
Ulster will be the first Irish side in action as the visit the Recreation ground for their Pool 3 meeting with Bath at 1pm on Saturday 16th November. This game will be available on free to air on Virgin Media, Channel 4 as well as on BT Sports. Similar to last season one game in each round will be shown on free to air TV.
Last years beaten finalists Leinster will get Pool 1 underway with a home game at the RDS against Benneton Treviso on 3:15pm the same day (on BT Sport).
While Munster will travel to the Liberty Stadium to take on the Ospreys at 5:30pm on Saturday evening in Pool 4 with coverage on BT Sport.
Connacht will get their campaign underway at the Sportsground as French side Montpellier visit Galway for a Sunday lunchtime game (1pm) for their Pool 5 match on BT Sport.
Munster look to have the most difficult assignment of the four provinces as they are in Pool 4, where they have been pitted alongside holders Saracens, French aristocrats Racing 92 and Welsh side Ospreys. Their round 3 & 4 back to back fixtures against Saracens will go a long way to determining their fate in the group.
Munster will host the holders at Thomond on Saturday 7th December at 5:30pm, while the return match will be at Allianz Park the following Saturday at 3pm.
Irish Provinces’ Fixtures
Saturday 16th November: 1pm – Bath v Ulster, 3:15pm – Leinster v Treviso, 5:30pm – Ospreys v Munster.
Sunday 17th November: 1pm – Connacht v Montpellier.
Friday 22nd November: 7:45pm – Ulster v Clermont Auvergne.
Saturday 23rd November: 1pm – Toulouse v Connacht, 3:15pm Lyon v Leinster, 5:30pm -Munster v Racing 92.
Saturday 7th December: 1pm – Northampton v Leinster, 3:15pm – Ulster v Harlequins, 5:30pm – Munster v Saracens.
Sunday 8th December: 1pm – Gloucester v Connacht.
Friday 13th December: 7:45pm – Harlequins v Ulster
Saturday 14th December: 12:45pm – Connacht v Gloucester, 3pm – Saracens v Munster, 5:15pm – Leinster v Northampton.
Saturday 11th January: 3:15pm – Connacht v Toulouse.
Sunday 12th January: 1pm – Leinster v Lyon.
Racing 92 v Munster TBC
Clermont Auvergne v Ulster TBC
Saturday 18th January: 1pm – Benetton Treviso v Leinster, 3:15pm – Ulster v Bath,
Sunday 19th January: 1pm – Munster v Ospreys, 3:15pm – Montpellier v Connacht.
EPCR weekends – 2019/20 season
Round 1: 15/16/17 November 2019
Round 2: 22/23/24 November 2019
Round 3: 6/7/8 December 2019
Round 4: 13/14/15 December 2019
Round 5: 10/11/12 January 2020
Round 6: 17/18/19 January 2020
Quarter-finals: 3/4/5 April 2020
Semi-finals: 1/2/3 May 2020
2020 finals – Stade de Marseille
Challenge Cup final – Friday 22 May
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 23 May