Monday 11 December 2017

Irish provinces handed tricky opening tests as Champions Cup fixtures and TV schedules are released

Captain Leo Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll won't be involved this season
Captain Leo Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll won't be involved this season

Guinness Pro12 title holders Leinster will entertain Wasps in round one of the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Matt O'Connor's men will host the Aviva Premiership side at 5.15pm on Sunday, October 19, the London club having qualified through the new play-off system at the end of last term.

Anthony Foley's first European game in charge of Munster will be a tricky trip to Sale at 1pm on October 18.

Ulster’s first game in the new European Rugby Champions Cup will be against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on October 18 also at 7.45pm.

Munster's game will be on Sky Sports while the games involving Leinster and Ulster are on BT Sport.

For full Champions Cup fixture click and tv schedules click here and full Challenge Cup fixtures click here

Saracens will open their campaign by renewing hostilities with Clermont Auvergne, the French side they trounced to reach last term's Heineken Cup final.

The north London club will help launch an intriguing opening weekend for the inaugural European competition to replace the now-defunct Heineken Cup.

Clermont will be seeking revenge for Saracens' 46-6 Twickenham hammering in last term's European semi-final showdown at Twickenham.

Mark McCall's men - beaten Heineken Cup and Aviva Premiership finalists last season - will host Clermont on October 18 in the opening European weekend.

Reigning European champions and French Top 14 winners Toulon will start their Pool Three battles by hosting Welsh region the Scarlets at Stade Mayol.

Current Premiership champions Northampton Saints will make the trip to Jonny Sexton's Racing Metro in Pool Five when the 20th season of European competition gets under way.

Harlequins' Twickenham Stoop showdown with Castres on Friday, October 17 will kick-start the new season's European action, with all 20 games in rounds one and two broadcast live on either BT Sport or Sky Sports.

Gloucester will open the European Rugby Challenge Cup proceedings by hosting Brive at Kingsholm on Thursday, October 16.

Connacht will play La Rochelle at 5pm on October 18.

Italian sides Rovigo and Calvisano, Georgian outfit Tblisi Caucasians and Romanians Bucharest Wolves can all still win through to the new-look Challenge Cup.

The two-legged Challenge Cup Qualification Play-offs will be held next month, with Rovigo taking on Caucasians and Calvisano meeting Bucharest.

The inaugural Champions Cup is the product of more than two years of political wrangling between the English, French and Celtic nations.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the new governing body that handles tournament administration, with meritocratic qualification and enhanced TV rights deals two of the chief results of the new format.

EPCR has set up headquarters in Neuchatel, Switzerland.

European Rugby Cup (ERC), the body that ran the Heineken Cup, has been commissioned to run the new competition while EPCR continues to lay its foundations in Switzerland.

Despite the stay of execution ERC is still expected to be wound up in time, though could well run the new-look European set-up for the duration of the coming campaign.

Opening fixtures for the Champions Cup:


Friday, October 17

Pool 2: Harlequins v Castres

Kickoff: 19:45

Venue: The Stoop


Saturday, October 18

Pool 1: Sale v Munster

Kickoff: 13:00

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium


Pool 1: Saracens v Clermont

Kickoff: 15:15

Venue: Allianz Park


Pool 4: Glasgow Warriors v Bath

Kickoff: 15:15

Venue: Scotstoun Stadium


Pool 5: Racing Métro v Northampton Saints

Kickoff: 18:15

Venue: Stade Yves-du-Manoir


Pool 3: Leicester Tigers v Ulster

Kickoff: 19:45

Venue: Welford Road


Sunday, October 19


Pool 5: Ospreys v Treviso

Kickoff: 13:00

Venue: Liberty Stadium


Pool 4: Toulouse v Montpellier

Kickoff: 14:00

Venue: Stade Ernest Wallon


Pool 3: Toulon v Scarlets

Kickoff: 16:15

Venue: Stade Félix Mayol


Pool 2: Leinster v Wasps

Kickoff: 17:15

Venue: RDS Arena

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