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Blockbuster Ties Await Provinces In Next Season’s Champions Cup

Blockbuster Ties Await Provinces In Next Season’s Champions Cup

Leinster, Munster, and Leinster learned who they will face in the pool stages of next season's Investec Champions Cup ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster, Munster, and Ulster will face some familiar opponents in the 2024/25 Investec Champions Cup, following today’s pool draw for the pool stages which kick off in early December.

The much-anticipated draw was held in Cardiff, as the 30th final of EPCR’s elite tournament, set for Saturday, May 24, will be returning to the Welsh capital where Munster were previously crowned champions in 2006 and 2008.

The pool fixtures will take place on December 6/7/8, December 13/14/15, January 10/11/12, and January 17/18/19. Tickets for the May decider at Cardiff’s Principality are already available to buy here.

TNT Sports’ Sarra Elgan, and Vincent Pochulu of beIN Sports, co-hosted the draw which was streamed live online. Fellow rugby presenter Elma Smit was the designated EPCR ball drawer, and Simon Thomas of Thomas Hutchinson was the scrutineer.

Notably, Leinster and Munster have been drawn again with La Rochelle and Northampton Saints respectively, having played them in both the pool and knockout stages this past season.

Another highlight from the draw is Ulster joining defending champions Toulouse in Pool 1. Similarly, this is a repeat fixture from last January when the French giants ran out 48-24 winners at Kingspan Stadium.

Once the pool fixtures are confirmed in due course, Richie Murphy’s men will also be pencilling in clashes with Bordeaux-Bègles, who lost last Friday’s Top 14 final to Toulouse, and English clubs Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs.

The Ulstermen have not play Leicester in Champions Cup action since 2019, and missed out on an EPCR Challenge Cup final appearance in 2021 when Tigers’ second half comeback saw them prevail 33-24 at home.

Toulouse have been regular opponents for the province – this will be their fifth encounter since 2020 – but they have not locked horns with Bordeaux or Exeter since being in the same pool for the 2016/17 Champions Cup.

Former RBAI and Ulster underage scrum half Niall Armstrong is part of the current Exeter squad, along with fellow Irishmen Jack Dunne and Eoin O’Connor. Ireland international Joey Carbery is among Bordeaux’s new arrivals.

Meanwhile, Munster will have revenge on their minds after Northampton, the new Gallagher Premiership champions, knocked them out of this past season’s Champions Cup in April.

Saints also fought back from Curtis Langdon’s red card to win the pool tie at Thomond Park in January, so Graham Rowntree’s charges will be doubledly determined to reverse those results when the sides battle it out again.

Castres Olympique, Stade Français Paris, and Saracens complete a meaty Pool 3 menu for Munster. The Reds won home and away against Castres (19-13 and 16-13) in the 2021/22 tournament, and incredibly this will be their 19th meeting in Champions Cup history.

Having traded home victories with Sarries in December 2019, Munster lead the overall head-to-head by six to five. The teams have produced some classic encounters over the years, chief amongst them that unforgettable 35-34 triumph at Vicarage Road back in 1999.

The Reds have not had Stade Français, the recent beaten Top 14 semi-finalists, in their pool since the 2015/16 season. Back then they regrouped from a 27-7 away defeat to win 26-13 at Thomond Park where Keith Earls and Simon Zebo, who are now both retired, were among the try scorers.

The top seeds in Pool 2, Leinster will face some heavyweight English and French opposition in Clermont Auvergne, La Rochelle, Bristol Bears, and Bath. Leo Cullen’s side have reached three finals on trot, but have been narrowly beaten on each occasion.

La Rochelle pipped them in the 2022 and 2023 finals before there was extra-time heartbreak at the hands of Toulouse in May. December will bring a fresh chance to make amends as the road to Cardiff begins.

Incredibly, this will be the fifth year in a row that Leinster and La Rochelle will cross paths. With the RDS being redeveloped, Leinster will play the majority of their home games at the Aviva Stadium next season, while Croke Park will remain available for bigger fixtures.

La Rochelle won a 2021 semi-final before lifting the title twice, but Leinster were victorious twice this past season, including a runaway 40-13 quarter-final success at the Aviva.

Clermont, who have signed Leinster prop Michael Ala’alatoa, claimed a 27-22 win when they last met the province, at the semi-final stage of the 2016/17 Champions Cup. The head-to-head record has Leinster edging it with five victories out of nine.

It was January 2003 when Leinster last played Bristol in competitive fare, back when Donnybrook was their home ground. Pat Lam’s Bears have three former Connacht players, Kieran Marmion, AJ MacGinty, and Jake Heenan, in their ranks.

Bath, who have signed long-serving Leinster lock Ross Molony, were beaten twice relatively recently by Cullen’s men, losing 45-20 in Dublin in December 2021, and then 64-7 at the Recreation Ground.


POOL 1: Stade Toulousain, Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Hollywoodbets Sharks, Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers, ULSTER RUGBY

POOL 2: LEINSTER RUGBY, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Stade Rochelais, Bristol Bears, Benetton Rugby, Bath Rugby

POOL 3: Northampton Saints, MUNSTER RUGBY, Vodacom Bulls, Stade Français Paris, Saracens, Castres Olympique

POOL 4: Glasgow Warriors, Racing 92, Sale Sharks, DHL Stormers, RC Toulon, Harlequins

Connacht’s Challenge Cup Pool Has French And South African Flavour


Round 1 – December 6/7/8
Round 2 – December 13/14/15
Round 3 – January 10/11/12
Round 4 – January 17/18/19

Round of 16 – April 4/5/6

Quarter-finals – April 11/12/13

Semi-finals – May 2/3/4
2025 Investec Champions Cup final – Principality Stadium, Cardiff; Saturday, May 24