Stade Francais Paris – the reigning European Rugby Challenge Cup holders – will head back to the scene of their first European triumph after being drawn alongside Edinburgh Rugby in Pool 4 for the 2017/18 tournament.
The Parisiens will be looking to become the first team to retain the Challenge Cup in its 22-year history by making it back-to-back finals with a trip to Bilbao next May – with the winners guaranteed an automatic ticket into the 2018/19 Champions Cup.
The draw, made today in Neuchatel, saw the French giants, who beat Gloucester Rugby 25-17 at BT Murrayfield Stadium last month at their fifth attempt of lifting an European title, will travel back to the Scottish capital to take on an Edinburgh Rugby side who will have a new head coach in Richard Cockerill.
The champions will also take on London Irish – back in European competition after winning promotion back to the Premiership – and Continental Shield runners-up Krasny Yar.
The Russian club will be one of the two teams making their tournament debuts with four-time European Champions Cup winners Toulouse the other competition “newcomers” after 157 successive matches in Europe’s elite tournament.
Toulouse join Cardiff Blues in Pool 2 and it means the two finalists from the inaugural Euro final back in 1996, won by Toulouse, will meet again.
The group also includes Sale Sharks and Lyon while last month’s finalists Gloucester Rugby face two French tests in Pau and Agen and Italian opposition in the shape of Zebre.
In Pool 1 Continental Shield winners Enisiei-STM will be looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their third season in the competition. They have some familiar opponents in Newcastle Falcons and Newport Gwent Dragons, both of whom they have beaten at home in the last two years.
Another of last season’s Champions Cup teams Bordeaux-Begles also have competition history with the Dragons and Falcons while newly promoted PROD2 champions Oyonnax find themselves in Pool 5 with Brive, Connacht Rugby and Worcester Warriors.
Brive will know all about their Top 14 rivals and also met the Warriors in last season’s tournament while it will be the third time they have played Connacht in the group stages.