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

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

A view of the three completed pools for next season's EPCR Challenge Cup, following today's draw in Cardiff ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Connacht could play the Toyota Cheetahs for the first time in over five years, following the 2024/25 EPCR Challenge Cup pool draw which was held today in Cardiff, the venue for next May’s final.

With the continuing format of three pools of six, Connacht were drawn in Pool 1 alongside Cardiff, South Africa’s Cheetahs, who are one of the tournament’s two invited teams, French clubs Perpignan and Lyon, and Zebre Parma.

Teams will play four different opponents home or away during the pool stages, and as a limited number of same-league fixtures are unavoidable, Connacht will face a fellow BKT United Rugby Championship side in either Cardiff or Zebre, or both of them.

While the pool games will be confirmed by EPCR in due course, Pete Wilkins’ men can run the rule over the Cheetahs, whom they last took on in the PRO14 in 2019, and both Perpignan and Lyon, who finished 10th and 11th respectively in the recently-completed Top 14.

This morning’s pool draw in the Welsh capital was co-hosted by TNT Sports’ Sarra Elgan and Vincent Pochulu of beIN Sports, with fellow rugby presenter Elma Smit the designated EPCR ball drawer. Simon Thomas from Hutchinson Thomas was the scrutineer.

The pool fixtures will take place on December 6/7/8, December 13/14/15, January 10/11/12, and January 17/18/19. Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will host the Challenge Cup final on Friday, May 23. Tickets are already available to buy here.

This will be a third successive Challenge Cup campaign for South Africa’s Cheetahs, who reached the round of 16 in both 2023 and 2024. They will play their home matches in Amsterdam, with an attendance of 4,500 watching last January’s clash with Pau at the NRCA Stadium.

The Cheetahs have fulfilled EPCR’s participation criteria of having a home venue in Europe, as well as the ability to select competitive matchday squads and to adhere to the required minimum standards for staging a fixture.

Connacht were in the same Investec Champions Cup pool as Lyon this past season, and suffered a 34-20 defeat at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland in January when Sean Jansen, Cian Prendergast, and Tadgh McElroy scored their tries.

The westerners’ only previous European meetings with Perpignan were in their 2018/19 Challenge Cup pool. They won the home tie, 22-10, at the Sportsground, before registering a five-try 36-21 victory the following week at Stade Aimé Giral.

Wilkins’ charges, who finished five points outside of the top eight, ended up 11th in the 2023/24 URC standings, one place above Cardiff with Zebre at the bottom of the table.

JJ Hanrahan kicked 11 points when Connacht won 16-12 at Cardiff Arms Park in February, and promising scrum half Matthew Devine touched down twice during April’s 54-16 triumph over Zebre at Dexcom Stadium.


POOL 1: Cardiff Rugby, CONNACHT RUGBY, Toyota Cheetahs, USAP, Lyon Olympique Universitaire, Zebre Parma

POOL 2: Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Section Paloise, Newcastle Falcons, Dragons RFC, Emirates Lions, Ospreys

POOL 3: RC Vannes, Black Lion, Aviron Bayonnais, Scarlets, Edinburgh Rugby, Gloucester Rugby

Blockbluster Ties Await Provinces In Next Season’s Champions Cup


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 EPCR Challenge Cup final – Principality Stadium, Cardiff; Friday, May 23