Newly crowned European champions Exeter Chiefs won’t get anything easy when they begin their Champions Cup title defence in December as they have been drawn against Toulouse and Glasgow in the revamped 2020/21 format.

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Rob Baxter’s side lifted the Champions Cup trophy for the first time after a dramatic 25th anniversary final earlier this month against Racing, but Exeter have a long road ahead if they are to reach next May’s decider in Marseille. 

Under the new one-season format featuring two pools of twelve clubs, a structure that will generally confuse the rugby public, reigning Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster Rugby will have Montpellier and Northampton as their opponents in Pool A, while European runners-up Racing are in Pool B where they will be up against Connacht and Harlequins.

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Wasps, who were edged out by the Chiefs in the Gallagher Premiership final, will meet Dragons and Montpellier in Pool A, and PRO14 finalists Ulster take on Gloucester and Toulouse in Pool B.

Munster will renew their European rivalry with Clermont and Harlequins in Pool B, while Bristol Bears boss Pat Lam will make a return to Galway when the Challenge Cup winners face off against Connacht and Clermont, also in Pool B.

For the purposes of the draw, the 24 clubs which qualified from the Premiership, the PRO14 and the TOP 14 were classified into four tiers based on their performances in the knockout phases of their respective leagues, and/or on their qualifying positions in their respective league tables.

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Each tier contained six clubs with tier 1 made up of the number one and number two ranked clubs from each league, and tier 2, the number three and number four ranked clubs from each league, and so on. Starting with tier 1, the clubs were either drawn or allocated into either Pool A or Pool B so that each pool contained twelve clubs with no clubs in the same tier from the same league in the same pool.

The tier 1 and tier 4 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which were not from the same league, will play one another home and away over four rounds. The same principle applied to the tier 2 and tier 3 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which were not from the same league.

The exact dates of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage fixtures and the Challenge Cup preliminary stage fixtures – including venues, kick-off times and TV coverage – will be announced as soon as possible following consultation with clubs and EPCR’s partner broadcasters.

The four highest-ranked clubs from each Heineken Champions Cup pool will qualify for the quarter-finals which will be played over two legs, and the clubs ranked from number five to number eight in each pool will qualify for the round of 16 of the Challenge Cup.

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2020/21 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP

POOL A (with opponents in brackets)
Bordeaux (Dragons, Northampton)
Leinster (Montpellier, Northampton)
Wasps (Dragons, Montpellier)
Bath (La Rochelle, Scarlets)
Edinburgh (La Rochelle, Sale)
Toulon (Sale, Scarlets)
La Rochelle (Bath, Edinburgh)
Sale (Edinburgh, Toulon)
Scarlets (Bath, Toulon)
Dragons (Bordeaux, Wasps)
Montpellier (Leinster, Wasps)
Northampton (Bordeaux, Leinster)

POOL B (with opponents in brackets)
Exeter (Glasgow, Toulouse)
Lyon (Glasgow, Gloucester)
Ulster (Gloucester, Toulouse)
Bristol (Clermont, Connacht)
Munster (Clermont, Harlequins)
Racing (Connacht, Harlequins)
Clermont (Bristol, Munster)
Connacht (Bristol, Racing)
Harlequins (Munster, Racing)
Glasgow (Exeter, Lyon)
Gloucester (Lyon, Ulster)
Toulouse (Exeter, Ulster)

2020/21 season weekends
Round 1 – 11/12/13 December 2020
Round 2 – 18/19/20 December 2020
Round 3 – 15/16/17 January 2021
Round 4 – 22/23/24 January 2021
Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 1st leg – 2/3/4 April 2021
Challenge Cup Round of 16 – 2/3/4 April 2021
Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 2nd leg – 9/10/11 April 2021
Challenge Cup quarter-finals – 9/10/11 April 2021
Semi-finals – 30 April – 1/2 May 2021

2021 finals – Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Challenge Cup final – Friday 21 May
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 22 May

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