All four provinces have qualified for the Heineken Champions Cup’s knockout stages for the first time, and two of them will play each other in the round of 16.
Both Ulster and Munster won all four of their pool games, with Dan McFarland’s second-placed side set to tackle reigning champions Toulouse in April’s home and away legs.
The four highest-ranked teams in each pool have home advantage in the second leg matches, so Munster, who finished third in Pool B, will face Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park before hosting them in Limerick.
The match of the round is the all-Irish affair between Leinster and Connacht, who advanced as fifth-placed finishers despite falling short against 14-man Stade Francais in Paris today.
Leo Cullen’s Leinster were hampered by Covid-19 issues last month, missing out on playing Montpellier in round 3 which resulted in the awarding of a 28-0 win to the French club.
The four-time champions finished strongly in the final two rounds, racking up 89 points against Montpellier and a further 64 yesterday in Bath while conceding just two tries.
However, Connacht will relish the interprovincial match-up, having won at the RDS with a Jack Carty-inspired performance last January. They also host Leinster in the United Rugby Championship in late March.
The round of 16 fixtures will be played over two legs on the weekends of April 8/9/10 and 15/16/17. The winners of Leinster-Connacht will play either Leicester Tigers of Clermont Auvergne.
If Ulster make it past Toulouse, their reward is a last-eight date with either Munster or Exeter. The quarter-finals are scheduled for May 6/7/8.
HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP FIXTURES:
Round Of 16 First Leg – April 8/9/10
R16 1: Stade Francais (B8) v Racing 92 (A1)
R16 2: Toulouse (B7) v ULSTER (A2)
R16 3: Bordeaux-Bègles (B6) v La Rochelle (A3)
R16 4: CONNACHT (B5) v LEINSTER (A4)
R16 5: Sale Sharks (A5) v Bristol Bears (B4)
R16 6: Exeter Chiefs (A6) v MUNSTER (B3)
R16 7: Montpellier (A7) v Harlequins (B2)
R16 8: Clermont Auvergne (A8) v Leicester Tigers (B1)
Round Of 16 Second Leg – April 15/16/17
R16 1: Racing 92 (A1) v Stade Francais (B8)
R16 2: ULSTER (A2) v Toulouse (B7)
R16 3: La Rochelle (A3) v Bordeaux-Bègles (B6)
R16 4: LEINSTER (A4) v CONNACHT (B5)
R16 5: Bristol Bears (B4) v Sale Sharks (A5)
R16 6: MUNSTER (B3) v Exeter Chiefs (A6)
R16 7: Harlequins (B2) v Montpellier (A7)
R16 8: Leicester Tigers (B1) v Clermont Auvergne (A8)
Quarter-Finals – May 6/7/8
The quarter-finals will be played over one match and the highest-ranked team from the pool stages will have home venue advantage as follows:
QF 1: Winners R16 1 v Winners R16 5
QF 2: Winners R16 7 v Winners R16 3
QF 3: Winners R16 2 v Winners R16 6
QF 4: Winners R16 8 v Winners R16 4
Semi-Finals – May 13/14/15
The semi-finals will be played over one match, and the highest-ranked teams from the pool stages will have either home country advantage or home venue advantage (tbc) as follows:
SF 1: Winners QF 1 v Winners QF 2
SF 2: Winners QF 3 v Winners QF 4
2022 Heineken Champions Cup Final: Saturday, May 28, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille