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Leinster tough Champions Cup pool


Holders Leinster handed crunch Champions Cup pool

Holders Leinster will be given a stern test of their credentials after being drawn Pool 1, with the four teams having 11 Champions Cup trophies between them.

Four-time winners Leinster were the top seeds and will come up against two-time winners Wasps, four-time winners Toulouse and 1998 winners Bath.

Leinster beat Wasps 32-17 in the 2017 quarter-finals at the Aviva, while their last match against Toulouse was in the 2011 semi-final which they won 32-23. Bath will have the inside track on Leinster, they’ve hired their attack coach Girvan Dempsey.

“The way the new format of the competition has gone, the pools are incredibly difficult. We made a presentation to Girvan (Dempsey) at the end of the season so we knew we were destined to draw against Bath.” Leinster Director of Rugby Leo Cullen said.

“Anyone that has been part of the team here, when they move somewhere else you always wish them the very best but you hope they don’t come back to haunt you on some of the days.”

“Wasps, who we had a couple of very tough outings against in the pool stages a couple of years ago, so we know how tough a team they are.”

“Toulouse have won the tournament four times so they know how to do it. All the teams in our pool have won the tournament before. As always, it’s an incredibly tough pool. The guys are back at it today so they’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young also reflected on the draw.

It’s a very difficult draw, but that’s what you expect when you’re playing against the best 19 other teams in Europe,” Young said.

“It’s exciting to be drawn with the defending champions and Toulouse who have also won the competition several times – they will be great match-ups.”

Premiership champions Saracens, who won the tournament in 2016 and 2017, face Glasgow Warriors, Lyon and Challenge Cup holders Cardiff Blues

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Top 14 champions Castres, who finished a disappointing third in their pool last season, will come up against Munster for the second year in a row. They will also play Premiership runnners-up Exeter Chiefs and Challenge Cup runners-up Gloucester Rugby. Gloucester’s new recruit Gerbrandt Grobler will face his former side Munster.

Pool 4 also looks intriguing, it has last years beaten finalists Racing 92 and beaten semi-finalists Scarlets, with Leicester Tigers and Ulster Rugby completing the line-up.

Three-time champions Toulon and Top 14 runners-up Montpellier will be the opponents for Newcastle Falcons and Edinburgh Rugby.

The Heineken Champions Cup final takes place in Newcastle on May 12th.

In the Challenge Cup Paddy Jackson will return to Ireland to play quicker than anticipated. His Perpignan team have been drawn to face Connacht in Pool 3 of the Challenge Cup. Jackson was acquitted of all charges after a high profile rape trial in Belfast. He was subsequently sacked by Ulster Rugby after a review by the club and the IRFU into text messages and social media revealed in court

Jackson signed a two-year contract with Perpignan, who are returning to the French Top 14 for the first time in four years. He had been strongly linked to a move to Premiership club Sale Sharks, a team he’ll also face in Pool 3.

2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup pools

Pool 1: Leinster Rugby, Wasps, Toulouse, Bath Rugby
Pool 2: Castres Olympique, Exeter Chiefs, Munster Rugby, Gloucester Rugby
Pool 3: Saracens, Glasgow Warriors, Lyon, Cardiff Blues
Pool 4: Scarlets, Racing 92, Leicester Tigers, Ulster Rugby
Pool 5: Montpellier, Newcastle Falcons, Edinburgh Rugby, RC Toulon

2018/19 Challenge Cup pools

Pool 1: Northampton Saints, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Dragons, Timisoara Saracens
Pool 2: Pau, Ospreys, Worcester Warriors, Stade Français Paris
Pool 3: Sale Sharks, Connacht Rugby, Bordeaux-Bègles, Perpignan
Pool 4: La Rochelle, Zebre Rugby Club, Bristol Bears, Enisei-STM
Pool 5: Benetton Rugby, Harlequins, Agen, Grenoble

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Holders Leinster handed crunch Champions Cup pool