Connacht will renew rivalries with Northampton Saints when they clash in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup on the second weekend in April.
The date and time of the game at Franklin’s Garden will be decided shortly – the tie will go ahead on the weekend starting on April 10.
This will be the third time that Connacht and Northampton have locked horns in the European Challenge Cup and the game will rekindle happy memories for Connacht fans, following a superb double success during the 1997/98 season.
Northampton have a number of Irish players currently on their books, including Neil Best, James Downey, Barry Everitt, Paul Shields and Roger Wilson.
The sides first met in the 1996/97 season when Northampton were successful on a 31-11 score-line at the Sportsground.
But the following season Connacht, then coached by Warren Gatland, scored magnificent wins at the Sportsground (43-13) and at Franklin’s Garden (20-15) to qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time.
Northampton were the first English team that Connacht played in European competition and since that meeting in the inaugural season of what is now the European Challenge Cup, Connacht have played English sides many times – Orrell (once), Sale Sharks (4 times), Harlequins (4), Worcester Warriors (2), Newcastle Falcons (3), Bath (2) and London Irish (2).
The 2008/09 European Challenge Cup quarter-finals, to be played on the weekend of April 10/11/12 are:
London Irish (1) v Bourgoin (8)
Northampton Saints (2) v Connacht Rugby (7)
Saracens (3) v Newcastle Falcons (6)
Worcester Warriors (4) v Brive (5)
HOW THEY QUALIFIED:
1) LONDON IRISH
Pool 1 winners – 29 points; 44 tries
2) NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Pool 2 winners – 29 points; 37 tries
Pool 5 winners – 26 points; 20 tries
4) WORCESTER WARRIORS
Pool 3 winners – 24 points; 36 tries
Pool 4 winners – 24 points; 33 tries
6) NEWCASTLE FALCONS
Best runner-up – 19 points; 24 tries (Pool 4 runner-up)
7) CONNACHT RUGBY
Second best runner-up – 19 points; 20 tries (Pool 1 runner-up)
Third best runner-up – 15 points; 18 tries (Pool 3 runner-up)