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Champions Cup: Back to back Anglo-Irish fixtures set for December

The three Irish provinces will face English opposition in back to back European ties

Saracens are the current holders of the Champions Cup. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The four pools for the 2017/18 Champions Cup. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

There’s a distinctive Anglo-Irish rivalry in the back-to-back fixtures in the Champions Cup in December as all three Irish provinces take on English clubs in what tend to prove the pivotal matches in the pool stage of the tournament.

The dates, times and television arrangements for the first four rounds of the tournament were confirmed on Tuesday.

It’s interesting to note that all seven matches contested by Irish provinces and English clubs in the first four rounds of pool fixtures will be broadcast live on BT Sport, who take over the exclusive Champions Cup television rights for Ireland and Britain from next season. Sky Sports will transmit live the other five games involving Irish provinces in the tournament prior to Christmas.

Munster renew a longstanding rivalry with the Leicester Tigers and Rassie Erasmus side will host the two-time former champions at Thomond Park on Saturday, December 9th (7.45). Eight days later the Irish province travel to Welford Road (5.30) for the late match on the Sunday.

Leinster’s double header is against the Aviva Premiership champions the Exeter Chiefs and Leo Cullen’s charges travel first to Sandy Park on Sunday, December 10th (5.30) before welcoming the English club to the RDS six days later on Saturday afternoon (3.15).

Ulster will travel to the Twickenham Stoop to take on Harlequins in the early match on Sunday, December 10th (1.0) before the return fixture, five days on, in the Irish province’s preferred slot of a Friday night at the Kingspan stadium (7.45).

Ulster also have the honour of playing the first match of this season’s tournament on Friday, October 13th (7.45), when they entertain Wasps, Leinster host Montpellier at the RDS (1.0) on the Saturday while Munster travel to another side with which they are very familiar in Europe, Castres Olympique on the Sunday (1.0, Irish time).

Leinster head for Glasgow in round two in the early game on the Saturday (1.0), Munster welcome Racing 92 including assistant coach Ronan O’Gara and former player Donnacha Ryan, who joined them in the summer, to Thomond Park (5.30): Ulster travel to La Rochelle on the Sunday (3.15, Irish time).

In the Challenge Cup Connacht are away to Oyonnax, at home to the Worcester Warriors and their back-to-back clashes in December see them travel to Brive and then host the French side in the return game the following week.

The dates, times and television commitments for the last two rounds of pool fixtures will be announced in late December.

(all times Irish)

POOL ONE

Oct 13: ULSTER v Wasps, 7.45; Oct 14: Harlequins v La Rochelle, 5.30. Oct 22: La Rochelle v ULSTER, 3.15; Wasps v Harlequins, 5.30. Dec 10: Harlequins v ULSTER, 1.0; La Rochelle v Wasps, 1.0. Dec 15: ULSTER v Harlequins, 7.45; Dec 17: Wasps v La Rochelle, 1.0. Jan 12-14: Harlequins v Wasps; ULSTER v La Rochelle. Jan 19-21: La Rochelle v Harlequins; Wasps v ULSTER.

POOL TWO

Oct 15: Northampton v Saracens, 5.30; Ospreys v Clermont, 5.30. Oct 21: Clermont v Northampton, 3.15; Saracens v Ospreys, 7.45. Dec 9: Northampton v Ospreys, 5.30; Dec 10: Saracens v Clermont, 3.15. Dec 17: Ospreys v Northampton, 3.15; Clermont v Saracens, 3.15. Jan 12-14: Northampton v Clermont; Ospreys v Saracens. Jan 19-21: Clermont v Ospreys; Saracens v Northampton.

POOL THREE

Oct 14: LEINSTER v Montpellier, RDS, 1.0; Exeter v Glasgow, 7.45. Oct 21: Glasgow v LEINSTER, 1.0; Oct 22: Montpellier v Exeter, 1.0. Dec 8: Glasgow v Montpellier, 7.45; Dec 10: Exeter v LEINSTER, 5.30. Dec 16: Montpellier v Glasgow, 1.0; LEINSTER v Exeter, Aviva Stadium, 3.15. Jan 12-14: Exeter v Montpellier; LEINSTER v Glasgow. Jan 19-21: Glasgow v Exeter; Montpellier v LEINSTER.

POOL FOUR

Oct 14: Racing 92 v Leicester, 3.15; Oct 15: Castres v MUNSTER, 1.0. Oct 21: Leicester v Castres, 5.30; MUNSTER v Racing 92, 5.30. Dec 9: Castres v Racing 92, 5.30; MUNSTER v Leicester, 7.45. Dec 16: Racing 92 v Castres, 3.15; Dec 17: Leicester v MUNSTER, 5.30. Jan 12-14: Castres v Leicester; Racing 92 v MUNSTER. Jan 19-21: Leicester v Racing 92; MUNSTER v Castres.

POOL FIVE

Oct 14: Bath v Treviso, 5.30; Oct 15: Toulon v Scarlets, 3.15. Oct 20: Scarlets v Bath, 7.45; Oct 21: Treviso v Toulon, 3.15. Dec 9: Scarlets v Treviso, 1.0; Toulon v Bath, 3.15. Dec 16: Treviso v Scarlets, 1.0, Bath v Toulon, 5.30; Jan 12-14: Bath v Scarlets; Toulon v Treviso. Jan 19-21: Treviso v Bath; Scarlets v Toulon.

CONNACHT’S CHALLENGE CUP POOL 5 FIXTURES

Oct 14: v Oyannax (a), 7.0; Oct 21: v Worcester (h), 3.0; Dec 9: v Brive (a), 8.0; Dec 16: v Brive (h), 3.0; Jan 11-14: v Worcester (a); Jan 18-21: v Oyannax (h).