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Leinster and La Rochelle to renew rivalry as Champions Cup pools named

By Josh Raisey
Jacques Nienaber and Ronan O'Gara/ PA

A new chapter in the rivalry between Leinster and La Rochelle is set to be written next season after both sides were drawn in the same pool in the Investec Champions Cup.

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After Ronan O’Gara’s side got the better of Leinster in consecutive European finals in 2022 and 2023, Leo Cullen’s side exacted revenge last season with a pool stage victory at the Stade Marcel Deflandre and a comprehensive quarter-final victory, before losing in the final.

The pair have again been drawn with each other in pool two alongside ASM Clermont Auvergne, Bristol Bears, Benetton and Bath.

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Champions Cup winners, and newly crowned Top 14 champions, Toulouse have been drawn in pool one with Challenge Cup winners the Sharks, Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers, Ulster and Bordeaux-Begles, who succumbed to a 59-3 loss to Antoine Dupont and co in the Top 14 final on Friday.

Gallagher Premiership champions Northampton Saints have perhaps been drawn in the toughest pool of all alongside United Rugby Championship table toppers Munster, runners-up the Bulls, second-place Top 14 finishers Stade Francais, Castres and three-time champions Saracens.

Fixture
Internationals
South Africa
27 - 20
Full-time
Ireland
All Stats and Data

URC winners Glasgow Warriors are in pool four alongside the Stormers, Top 14 duo Racing 92 and Toulon, and the Premiership’s Sale Sharks and Harlequins.

The first round of fixtures will get underway on the weekend of December 6, with the final taking place on May 24 2025 at the Principality Stadium.

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The Challenge Cup pools were drawn shortly before the Champions Cup, and are as follows:

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

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f
finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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