Champions Cup fixtures 2021/22: Leinster begin at home to Bath

Munster and Ulster both face trips in opening matches while Connacht play at home

Toulouse players celebrate winning last year’s Champions Cup. Photo: Getty Images

Toulouse players celebrate winning last year’s Champions Cup. Photo: Getty Images

 

Neither Leinster nor Munster will be particularly elated with the TV-dictated kick-off times they’ve been handed for their pre-Christmas home matches in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup.

Leinster will host Bath in their marquee fixture at the Aviva Stadium on December 11th with a 3.15pm kick-off time, when a tea-time slot would have probably held more appeal for supporters.

Munster might feel even less enamoured with an 8pm kick-off for their game against old foes Castres a week later on December 18th, given it is the last Saturday before Christmas and thus a prime time in the festive party season. Their once traditional and favoured slot of 5.30pm would have been a better means of filling out Thomond Park.

Leinster have a six-day turnaround before playing Montpellier on Friday, December 17th. Bath have had a tough start to the new Premiership season, losing their first three games, although they have picked up losing bonus points in each of those defeats by Sale, Newcastle and Bristol.

Montpellier, who qualified by dint of winning the European Challenge Cup, lie seventh after five rounds in the Top 14, with home wins over La Rochelle and Brive as well as a draw away to Toulon last weekend.

Munster will begin their campaign away to Wasps in Coventry on Sunday, December 12th (kick-off 3.15pm). Wasps had a stunning 44-8 win over Bristol before losing 18-14 away to Newcastle last Saturday. Castres have made a strong start to the Top 14, sitting fourth with just one defeat in five games and a notable win away to Clermont..

Ulster travel to Clermont in their opening fixture on Saturday, December 11th (kick-off 6.30pm local time/5.30pm Irish), and then have a six-day turnaround before hosting Northampton on the customary Friday slot – which should lead to a packed and vibrant Kingspan Stadium.

Northampton have a seven-day break after hosting Racing on the opening Friday night and sit second in the Premiership with three wins from three over Gloucester and London Irish at home either side of an eye-catching 26-24 victory at Exeter.

Connacht mightn’t be doing cartwheels about a Sunday 1pm kick-off for their opening game at home to Stade Francais, who sit last in the Top 14, although having lost their opening three games heavily they did beat Castres 34-10 last Saturday week.

A Sunday 1pm kick-off will again apply for Connacht a week later when they travel to Leicester, who overpowered them in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals at Welford Road last season and currently sit atop the Premiership after three rounds, including home wins over Exeter and Saracens.

Toulouse, who won the competition for a record fifth time last season as well as winning the Top 14, will begin their campaign against Cardiff at the Arms Park in a repeat of the inaugural 1996 final.

Once again, BT Sport will broadcast each of the 48 pool matches live in Ireland and the UK, with free-to-air transmission of one fixture in each round by Channel 4 and Virgin Media at 1pm in each of the respective Saturdays.

The other free-to-air games in the pool stages will be Harlequins-Cardiff, Wasps-Toulouse and Bath-Leinster at the Rec in round four on Saturday, January 22nd.

The Champions Cup will again follow last season’s Covid-affected and spectator unfriendly format of two pools of 12 over four pool rounds. The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knock-out stage which will consist of a two-legged, home and away round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final in Marseille on May 28th, 2022, which will be televised by BT Sport, Virgin Media and Channel 4. The clubs ranked nine to 11 in each of the pools will qualify for the round of 16 of the Challenge Cup.

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