The draw for the pool stages of this year Heineken Champions Cup was made this afternoon in Lucerne, Switzerland home to the ERC. Due to the implications of COVID-19 a one-off format sees two pool of twelve teams. Seeings have ranked the 24 sides into tiers of 1,2,3&4. There are four rounds of matches, with sides from each tier facing another team from their own seeding and two games against the other two sides in their sub-pool of 4 teams. Sides cannot play teams from their own domestic leagues.
What this all means for the Irish provinces is that in Pool1 Leinster will face both Montpellier and Northampton home and away. Connacht, Munster and Ulster have all been drawn in Pool 2. Connacht will be up against Pat Lam’s Bristol who won this season’s Challenge Cup with a 32-19 win over Toulon. Their other pool opponents are last years beaten finalists Racing 92.
Munster will have a trip to the stoop to play Harlequins and a daunting away trip to state Marcel Michelin to face ASM Clermont Auvergne. With the dates of their opponents visits to Thomond also yet to be confirmed. Ulster will once again face Toulouse, the side who knocked them out at the quarterfinal stage with a 36-8 win in Stade Ernest-Wallon at the end of September. Dan McFarland’s side will also travel to Kingsholm to face Gloucester.
Rounds 1&2 will take place on the weekends of 11th-13th & 18th-20th of December. While rounds 3&4 will be played on the weekends of 15th-17th & 22nd-24th of January.
The sides that occupy the top four spots in each pool of twelve will advance to the quarter-finals, while the sides that are in positions 5th-8th will qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup. Both finals are scheduled to be held in Stade Velodrome in Marseilles on the 21st & 22nd May 2021.