18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
This competition sees an increase to 32 in the number of participating teams who will now compete for the Parker Pen Challenge Cup in a straight knock-out competition with rounds of two legs.
Every club will still be guaranteed four games however as all first-round losers will be entered straight into the new Parker Pen Shield, effectively a third tier of continental competition.
Connacht are one of the 16 seeded teams in the Cup, who will all play an unseeded team in the first round on the weekends of October 11-13 and 18-20.
All rounds until the final will be played over two legs with the winner of the Challenge Cup earning automatic entry into the Heineken Cup 2003/04.
The seeded teams inlcude: Bath, Leeds, London Wasps, Harlequins, Newcastle, Saracens, Bordeaux-Begles, Castres Olympique, Colomiers, Montauban, RC Narbonne, Stade Francais, Bridgend, Pontypridd, Connacht and Scottish Borders.
The unseeded teams are: Grenoble, Mont de Marsan, Pau, Caerphilly, Ebbw Vale, GRAN Rugby Parma, Parma Rugby, Petrarca Padova, Pol Rugby L'Aquila, Rugby Roma, Rugby Rovigo, Rugby Silea, Rugby Treviso, La Moraleja Alcobendas, Madrid 2012, Dinamo Bucharest.
Connacht face French side Mont de Marsan in the first round of this tournament, where they will play Mont de Marsan in France on the weekend of 11/12/13 October and at home on 18/19/20 October.
If Connacht beat Mont de Marsan in the first round they will likely face more French opposition in the shape of Narbonne.