Leinster Rugby will open their bid for an historic three Heineken Cup titles in a row with a home match against tournament newcomers, Exeter Chiefs, at the RDS, Dublin on Saturday, 13 October.
The 2012 champions, who also triumphed in the world’s most competitive club rugby tournament in 2009 and 2011, will in addition play a mouth-watering Round 4 tie in Pool 5 against their great French rivals, ASM Clermont Auvergne, at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 15 December.
Belgium will become the 10th country to stage a Heineken Cup fixture when the 2011 English champions, Saracens, take their ground-breaking Round 2 match against Racing Metro 92 on Saturday, 20 October to the 50,000-capacity King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
Another big attendance will be expected when Racing Metro 92 play their Pool 1 tie against former champions, Munster, at the Stade de France on Saturday, 13 October.
ERC, the tournament organisers, today announced the fixtures, dates, kick-off times and live television coverage for the opening four rounds of the 2012/13 Heineken Cup.
In addition to the decision by four clubs (Leinster Rugby, Racing Metro 92, Saracens and Toulouse) to move fixtures in the opening rounds to bigger venues, all 24 matches in Rounds 1 and 2 will be televised live giving tournament supporters in Europe, as well as new audiences worldwide via ERC’s international broadcast partners, the opportunity to view top-quality competition.
Four-time tournament winners and current Top 14 champions, Toulouse, will begin their campaign with a heavyweight clash in Pool 2 against the 2001 and 2002 winners, Leicester Tigers, at Le Stadium on Sunday, 14 October, while Aviva Premiership title holders, Harlequins, are at home to last season’s Amlin Challenge Cup winners, Biarritz Olympique, in Round 1 on Saturday, 13 October.
The reigning RaboDirect PRO12 champions, Ospreys, are set to meet Benetton Treviso at the Liberty Stadium on Friday, 12 October, and Edinburgh Rugby, who made history last season by becoming the first Scottish club to reach a Heineken Cup semi-final, are scheduled to meet Saracens at Murrayfield in Round 1.
The new Parma-based Italian franchise, Zebre, will make their debut in the tournament against Connacht Rugby at Stadio XXV Aprile on Saturday, 13 October.
With Heineken Cup matches scheduled to be played for the first time at Stadio XXV Aprile, Glasgow Warriors’ Scotstoun Stadium, Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park, Sale Sharks’ Salford City Stadium and King Baudouin Stadium, the total of tournament venues will reach 103 by the completion of Round 4.