Munster and Leinster both on road for Euro openers
MUNSTER have been hit with yet another Sunday lunchtime kick-off for a crucial home Heineken Cup pool match after their home clash against Perpignan was fixed for December 8 at 12.45.
Two of the province's home pool games last season kicked off at that unpopular time.
On the brighter side, they will begin their home campaign with a 6.0 Saturday kick-off against Gloucester on October 19 a week after playing Edinburgh at Murrayfield in their opening game (1.35).
Connacht and Ulster will kick off their campaigns on Friday, October 11, with last year's semi-finalists Saracens visiting Galway and two-time winners Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill.
Leinster begin their bid to qualify from Pool 1 in Wales as they take on the Ospreys on the opening Saturday at 6.0 before hosting French champions Castres at the RDS a week later.
Matt O'Connor's side have moved their home meeting with Northampton to Lansdowne Road on Saturday, December 14 (6.0). Connacht's home game against Toulouse will be on at the same time at the Sportsground.
Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon will open the defence of their crown at home to Glasgow on Sunday, October 13, while the pick of the first-round games will see Jonny Sexton's Racing Metro hosting Clermont at 8.0 that night.
Wilkinson, the European Player of the Year, played a key role in the French club landing northern hemisphere club rugby's biggest prize with victory over Clermont Auvergne in last season's Dublin final.
As usual, the fixtures for the final two rounds will not be fixed until after the completion of round four.
The final has been fixed for Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday, May 24.
Crucial talks on the future of the competition will take place before then. The English and French clubs have served notice they will pull out when the existing participation agreement ends after next year's final unless changes are made to the sporting and commercial elements of the tournament.