Saracens, last season’s winners of an historic Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership double, will get their 2016/17 European campaign underway with a truly heavyweight clash with three-time champions Toulon at Stade Félix Mayol on Saturday, October 15.
The Anglo-French Pool 3 match is just one of numerous high-profile confrontations in the fixtures schedules for rounds 1 to 4 of this season’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup which were announced today by tournament organisers EPCR.
Connacht, who captured the PRO12 title in magnificent style last season, will be guaranteed a full house at the Sportsground for the round 1 visit of four-time tournament winners Toulouse, also on Saturday, October 15.
Last season’s Top 14 champions Racing 92 host Munster – now under new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus – at Stade Yves du Manoir on Sunday, October 16, just a couple of hours before Ulster launch their Pool 5 bid away to another French side, Bordeaux Begles.
2016 Challenge Cup winners Montpellier kick off their European season with a demanding Pool 4 fixture against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, October 15.
The Scarlets, who were drawn in the ultra-competitive Pool 3 with Saracens, Toulon and Sale Sharks, open up against Sale at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, 15 October.
Toulouse are moving their mouthwatering round 2 game against Wasps to Le Stadium on Sunday, October 23, and Leinster will attract another big attendance for the round 4 visit of Northampton to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, December 17.
All 40 matches in rounds 1 to 4 of the Champions Cup will be broadcast live in the UK and Ireland on either BT Sport or Sky Sports, while all games will be covered in France either live or delayed by beIN Sports and France Télévisions.
The dates, kick-off times and TV coverage for the round 5 and 6 fixtures in both tournaments will be announced in December following the completion of the round 4 matches.
– The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup each consist of five pools of four teams with the five pool winners and the three best runners-up qualifying for the knockout stages
– The 40 teams from eight countries in both tournaments have qualified on merit from Europe’s three main professional leagues – the Aviva Premiership, PRO12 and Top 14 – and from the Challenge Cup qualifying competition
– The 2017 Challenge Cup and Champions Cup finals will be staged at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh on May 12 and 13
– Timisoara Saracens of Romania will be making their debut in the Challenge Cup, while Bristol will be returning to European competition for the first time since the 2008/09 season
– All four Irish provinces have qualified by right for Europe’s top flight for the first time
– 2016/17 will be the 22nd season of European professional club rugby
2016/17 EPCR MATCH WEEKENDS –
Round 1: October 13/14/15/16
Round 2: October 20/21/22/23
Round 3: December 8/9/10/11
Round 4: December 15/16/17/18
Round 5: January 12/13/14/15
Round 6: January 19/20/21/22
Quarter-Finals: March 30/31-April 1/2
Semi-Finals: April 21/22/23
Champions Cup Final: Saturday, May 13, BT Murrayfield Stadium