History will be made in early April when the eagerly-anticipated Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 fixtures will be played over two legs for the first time.
An elite group of teams and their supporters, with as many as 28 European titles between them, will compete to stay on the road to the Marseille finals.
Six former tournament winners are also in contention to win the coveted silverware again following the announcement of the dates, kick-off times and broadcast coverage of the home and away matches at the start of the knockout stages.
With aggregate scores over the two contests deciding the round of 16 winners, dramatic outcomes in packed stadiums are certain to be the order of the day as the four highest-ranked teams in each pool are scheduled to play their second leg matches at home.
Holders Toulouse are moving their first leg game against the United Rugby Championship front runners, Ulster, to the 33,000-capacity Le Stadium on Saturday, April 9 (live on BT Sport), while the second leg goes ahead at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday, April 16.
It is the same April 9/April 16 schedule for Munster’s mouth-watering match-up with Exeter Chiefs, the return fixture taking place at Thomond Park with a 3pm kick-off.
Racing 92, the number one-ranked qualifiers from Pool A, make the short journey to Stade Jean Bouin for their first leg clash with Stade Francais, also on Saturday, April 9. The decisive second leg is at Paris La Défense Arena on Sunday, April 17.
Pool B table toppers and current Gallagher Premiership leaders, Leicester Tigers, relaunch their bid for the title, which has eluded them since 2002, when they travel to Stade Marcel-Michelin to face Clermont Auvergne on Sunday, April 10. The second meeting is at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday, April 16.
Four-time winners Leinster kick off the historic round of 16 on Friday, April 8 by visiting provincial rivals Connacht at the Sportsground. The return leg is set to go ahead at the home of Irish Rugby, the Aviva Stadium, on Friday, April 15.
In the event of drawn matches or equal aggregate scores at the end of normal time, extra-time will be played with the exception of the first legs of the round of 16 matches.
HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP – ROUND OF 16 FIRST LEGS:
Friday, April 8 –
CONNACHT v LEINSTER, the Sportsground, 8pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Saturday, April 9 –
Sale Sharks v Bristol Bears, AJ Bell Stadium, 1pm (Channel 4/Virgin Media/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Bordeaux-Bègles v La Rochelle, venue tbc, 2pm local time (beIN Sports/BT Sport)
Toulouse v ULSTER, Le Stadium, 4.15pm local time/3.15pm Irish time (beIN Sports/FR 2/BT Sport)
Exeter Chiefs v MUNSTER, Sandy Park, 5.30pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Stade Francais v Racing 92, Stade Jean Bouin, 6.30pm local time (beIN Sports/BT Sport)
Sunday, April 10 –
Montpellier v Harlequins, GGL Stadium, 2pm local time (beIN Sports/BT Sport)
Clermont Auvergne v Leicester Tigers, Stade Marcel-Michelin, 4.15pm local time (beIN Sports/FR 2/BT Sport)
HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP – ROUND OF 16 SECOND LEGS:
Friday, April 15 –
LEINSTER v CONNACHT, Aviva Stadium, 5.30pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Bristol Bears v Sale Sharks, Ashton Gate, 8pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Saturday, April 16 –
Harlequins v Montpellier, Twickenham Stoop, 12.30pm (Channel 4/Virgin Media/BT Sport/beIN Sports)
MUNSTER v Exeter Chiefs, Thomond Park, 3pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
La Rochelle v Bordeaux-Bègles, Stade Marcel Deflandre, 4pm local time (FR 2/beIN Sports/BT Sport)
Leicester Tigers v Clermont Auvergne, Mattioli Woods Welford Road, 5.30pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports/FR 4)
ULSTER v Toulouse, Kingspan Stadium, 8pm (BT Sport/beIN Sports)
Sunday, April 17 –
Racing 92 v Stade Francais, Paris La Défense Arena, 4.30pm local time (beIN Sports/BT Sport)
May 6/7/8 –
The quarter-finals will be played over one match and the highest-ranked teams from the pool stages will have home venue advantage as follows:
QF 1: Racing 92 (A1) or Stade Francais (B8) v Bristol Bears (B4) or Sale Sharks (A5)
QF 2: Harlequins (B2) or Montpellier (A7) v La Rochelle (A3) or Bordeaux-Bègles (B6)
QF 3: ULSTER (A2) or Toulouse (B7) v MUNSTER (B3) or Exeter Chiefs (A6)
QF 4: Leicester Tigers (B1) or Clermont Auvergne (A8) v LEINSTER (A4) or CONNACHT (B5)
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
Saturday, May 28 – Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, 5.45 local time/4.45pm Irish time