South Africa to welcome English trio in Champions Cup

1 month ago 366
Manie Libbock of the Stormers celebrates URC victoryManie Libbock celebrates the Stormers' victory in the United Rugby Championship final

Exeter, Harlequins and London Irish all face trips to South African sides, included in the competition for the first time, in the pool stages of the 2022-23 Heineken Champions Cup.

In Pool A Exeter face Pretoria-based Bulls and French side Castres, while Harlequins face Durban-based Sharks and Racing 92 of Paris.

In Pool B London Irish take on United Rugby Championship winners Stormers and French champions Montpellier, while defending champions La Rochelle meet Northampton and Ulster.

The French side beat Leinster in May to win the competition for the first time.

Wales' only Champions Cup representatives, Ospreys, will face the champions of France and England, Montpellier and Leicester, in Pool B.

Edinburgh meet Castres and Saracens.

Champions Cup organisers have said the inclusion of the three South African sides will bring "a new level of elite rugby".

Two other South African sides, Lions and Cheetahs, will play in the second-tier Challenge Cup.

Worcester will travel to South Africa to face the Johannesburg-based Lions.

Bath have arguably the toughest draw of England's five Challenge Cup representatives, facing Toulon and Glasgow.

How it works

The Champions Cup is the top-tier competition for clubs from England's Premiership, France's Top 14 and the United Rugby Championship, in which sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and South Africa compete.

The 2022-23 Champions and Challenge Cup season will be played over eight weekends, with four rounds of matches in the pool stage and the opening round of fixtures in both competitions taking place on the weekend of 9-11 December.

In the new format, each team has been drawn to face two opponents, home and away. However, those two opponents do not in turn face each other in a closed mini-league of three; they have their own two teams to face. So, in the draw set out below, Castres will play Exeter and Edinburgh home and away, but Exeter will face Castres and Bulls, Bulls will face Exeter and Lyon, and so on.

The organiser European Professional Club Rugby sets out the rationale for which sides are drawn together hereexternal-link.

At the end of the four rounds of pool games, the top eight teams in each pool progress to a last-16 stage, followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals - which will be played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin - the Challenge Cup decider on Friday 19 May and the Champions Cup final the following day.

Champions Cup

POOL A

Castres Olympique v Exeter Chiefs and Edinburgh Rugby

Saracens v Lyon and Edinburgh Rugby

Bulls v Lyon and Exeter Chiefs

Bordeaux-Bègles v Gloucester and Sharks

Harlequins v Racing 92 and Sharks

Leinster v Racing 92 and Gloucester

Racing 92 v Harlequins and Leinster Rugby

Gloucester v Bordeaux-Begles and Leinster

Sharks v Bordeaux-Bègles and Harlequins

Lyon v Saracens and Bulls

Exeter Chiefs v Castres and Bulls

Edinburgh v Castres and Saracens

POOL B

Montpellier v London Irish and Ospreys

Leicester Tigers v Clermont Auvergne and Ospreys

Stormers v Clermont Auvergne and London Irish

Toulouse v Sale Sharks and Munster

Northampton Saints v La Rochelle and Munster

Ulster v La Rochelle and Sale Sharks

La Rochelle v Northampton and Ulster

Sale Sharks v Toulouse and Ulster

Munster v Toulouse and Northampton

Clermont Auvergne v Leicester and Stormers

London Irish v Montpellier and Stormers

Ospreys v Montpellier and Leicester

Challenge Cup

POOL A

Glasgow Warriors v Perpignan and Bath

Toulon v Zebre and Bath

Bristol v Zebre and Perpignan

Connacht v Brive and Newcastle

Cardiff v Brive and Newcastle

Brive v Connacht and Cardiff

Newcatle v Connacht and Cardiff

Perpignan v Bristol and Glasgow Warriors

Zebre v Bristol and Toulon

Bath v Toulon and Glasgow Warriors

POOL B

Scarlets, Bayonne and Cheetahs

Pau v Dragons and Cheetahs

Wasps v Dragons and Bayonne

Lions v Stade Francais and Worcester Warriors

Benetton v Stade Francais and Worcester Warriors

Stade Francais v Lions and Benetton

Worcester Warriors v Lions and Benetton

Dragons v Pau and Wasps

Toulon v Scarlets and Wasps

Cheetahs v Scarlets and Pau

Source Article