The first Heineken Champions Cup games on Irish soil this season will be in Dublin and Galway, following today’s announcement of the pool fixtures for the 2019/20 tournament by organisers EPCR.
Leinster, last season’s runners-up, will host Benetton Rugby in their Pool 1 opener at the RDS on Saturday, November 16 (kick-off 3.30pm), less than 24 hours before Champions Cup rugby returns to the Sportsground where Connacht entertain Montpellier.
It will be a ‘Super Saturday’ of European action for Irish Rugby fans on November 16 with three of the provinces in back-to-back matches. Ulster visit Bath for a 1pm kick-off, which will be the first free-to-air match of the campaign, and Johann van Graan’s Munster take on the Ospreys in Swansea (kick-off 5.30pm).
There will be huge interest in how Munster fare, with new coaches Graham Rowntree and Stephen Larkham coming on board and reigning European champions Saracens and Racing 92 also in Pool 4. Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo will be in the away dressing room for Racing’s trip to Thomond Park on November 23.
December 7 and 14 are big dates for Munster too as they renew rivalries with Saracens, who ended their European hopes last season with a 32-16 semi-final defeat in Coventry. Thomond Park is sure to be thronged for the home game, just under three weeks before Christmas.
Leinster’s December double header is against Northampton Saints, who return to the Aviva Stadium on December 14, while Ulster have home-and-away encounters with Harlequins. Indeed, it will be four Anglo-Irish double headers with Andy Friend’s Connacht side tussling with familiar foes Gloucester.
Rounds 2 and 5 are full of French flavour for the provinces, with the weekend of January 10-12 standing out. Munster and Ulster visit Racing and Clermont Auvergne respectively, Leinster host Lyon for the first time in their history, and Galway will be buzzing for Connacht’s final home pool match against Toulouse, the Top 14 champions.
Ulster and Munster will have home advantage in the final round of the pool stages – Bath and the Ospreys travel across the Irish Sea for the rematches – and there could be crucial points on offer for Leinster in Treviso and Connacht in Montpellier.
BT Sport, which this season has enhanced access for Irish customers, continues to lead the television coverage of the Champions Cup in the UK and Ireland. The competition, which has seven previous winners with 16 titles between them, will again be available on a free-to-air basis with one key match per round broadcast live on Channel 4 and Virgin Media.
Ahead of the 2020 final in Marseille next May, all 60 matches in rounds 1 to 6 of the Champions Cup will be broadcast live in the UK, Ireland and Italy on either BT Sport, Channel 4, Virgin Media or DAZN, and in France on beIN Sports and France Télévisions.
In addition, EPCR can confirm that for at least the 2019/20 season, a player who is a UK citizen will be regarded as a European player for the purposes of its tournaments.
HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP POOLS & FIXTURES – 2019/20 SEASON:
POOL 1: LEINSTER, Lyon, Northampton Saints, Benetton Rugby
POOL 2: Exeter Chiefs, Glasgow Warriors, La Rochelle, Sale Sharks
POOL 3: Clermont Auvergne, ULSTER, Harlequins, Bath
POOL 4: Saracens, MUNSTER, Racing 92, Ospreys
POOL 5: Toulouse, Gloucester, CONNACHT, Montpellier
ROUND 1 –
Saturday, November 16:
Bath v ULSTER, Recreation Ground, 1pm (Channel 4/Virgin Media/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
LEINSTER v Benetton Rugby, the RDS, 3.15pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports/DAZN)
Ospreys v MUNSTER, Liberty Stadium, 5.30pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Sunday, November 17:
CONNACHT v Montpellier, the Sportsground, 1pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ROUND 2 –
Friday, November 22:
ULSTER v Clermont Auvergne, Kingspan Stadium, 7.45pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Saturday, November 23:
Toulouse v CONNACHT, Stade Ernest Wallon, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time (FR2/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Lyon v LEINSTER, Matmut Stadium de Gerland, 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time (beIN Sports/BT Sport)
MUNSTER v Racing 92, Thomond Park, 5.30pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ROUND 3 –
Saturday, December 7:
Northampton Saints v LEINSTER, Franklin’s Gardens, 1pm (Channel 4/Virgin Media/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ULSTER v Harlequins, Kingspan Stadium, 3.15pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
MUNSTER v Saracens, Thomond Park, 5.30pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Sunday, December 8:
Gloucester v CONNACHT, Kingsholm Stadium, 1pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ROUND 4 –
Friday, December 13:
Harlequins v ULSTER, Twickenham Stoop, 7.45pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Saturday, December 14:
CONNACHT v Gloucester, the Sportsground, 12.45pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Saracens v MUNSTER, Allianz Park, 3pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
LEINSTER v Northampton Saints, Aviva Stadium, 5.15pm (Virgin Media/Channel 4/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ROUND 5 –
Racing 92 v MUNSTER, Paris La Défense Arena, tbc (TBC/BT Sport)
Clermont Auvergne v ULSTER, Stade Marcel Michelin, tbc (TBC/BT Sport)
Saturday, January 11:
CONNACHT v Toulouse, the Sportsground, 3.15pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Sunday, January 12:
LEINSTER v Lyon, the RDS, 1pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ROUND 6 –
Saturday, January 18:
Benetton Rugby v LEINSTER, Stadio di Monigo, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time (DAZN/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
ULSTER v Bath, Kingspan Stadium, 3.15pm (TBC/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Sunday, January 19:
MUNSTER v Ospreys, Thomond Park, 1pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Montpellier v CONNACHT, GGL Stadium, 4.15pm local time/3.15pm (TBC/BT Sport)
Quarter-Finals: April 3/4/5
Semi-Finals: May 1/2/3
Final: Stade de Marseille, Saturday, May 23