Holders Saracens begin defence with away tie against Racing 92
Saracens, who last season became the first Premiership club to win Europe’s blue-riband club tournament for a third time, will begin the defence of their title with a mouthwatering Heineken Champions Cup clash against Racing 92 at Paris La Défense Arena on Sunday, 17 November.
The Pool 4 confrontation, which will be live on BT Sport, is only one of a host of top-quality matches in the fixture schedules for all six rounds of the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup which have been announced by tournament organisers EPCR.
BT Sport, which this season has enhanced access for Irish customers, continues to lead the television coverage of the Heineken Champions Cup in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The competition, which has seven previous winners with 16 titles between them, will again be available on a free-to-air basis with one key match per round broadcast live on Channel 4 and Virgin Media.
The opening free-to-air fixture will see Bath Rugby pitted against Ulster Rugby in Pool 3 at the Recreation Ground on Saturday, 16 November, while the first shots of the landmark 25th season of European professional club rugby will be fired when Toulouse, the winners of the inaugural tournament in 1996 and the current TOP 14 champions, travel to Gloucester Rugby on Friday, 15 November.
Leinster Rugby, the reigning Guinness PRO14 champions, take on Benetton Rugby, who last season became the first Italian club to qualify by right for Europe’s top tier, at the RDS in Pool 1 on Saturday, 16 November and the Irish province will then come up against a resurgent Northampton Saints in the key December back-to-back matches.
ASM Clermont Auvergne, who won the 2019 Challenge Cup in such impressive style, will once again pack out the Stade Marcel-Michelin for their opening Pool 3 game against Harlequins also on Saturday, 16 November.
Other highlights of the crucial back-to-back fixtures in Rounds 3 and 4 include the meetings of Munster Rugby and Saracens, as well as the head-to-heads between Bath and Clermont, Glasgow Warriors and La Rochelle, and Harlequins and Ulster.
Ahead of the 2020 finals in Marseille next May, all 60 matches in Rounds 1 to 6 of the Heineken Champions Cup will be broadcast live in the UK, Ireland and Italy on either BT Sport, Channel 4, Virgin Media or DAZN, and in France on beIN SPORTS and France Télévisions.
This season, the Challenge Cup has seven former European title winners – Brive, Cardiff Blues, Leicester Tigers, Pau, RC Toulon, Stade Francais Paris and Wasps – in its ranks and the tournament kicks off on Friday, 15 November with the Pool 1 meeting of Enisei-STM and Worcester Warriors in Krasnodar, the clash of Agen and Edinburgh Rugby at Stade Armandie, as well as the all-French match-ups between Bayonne and RC Toulon, and Stade Francais Paris and Brive.
Also in Round 1 on Saturday, 16 November, Leicester take on Pau at Welford Road, the Scarlets and the Dragons are at home against London Irish and Castres Olympique respectively, Wasps are at Bordeaux-Bègles, Bristol Bears host Zebre Rugby Club and the Cardiff Blues make the journey to Rugby Calvisano.
In addition, EPCR can confirm that for at least the 2019/20 season, a player who is a UK citizen will be regarded as a European player for the purposes of its tournaments.
- The Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup each consist of five pools of four clubs with the five pool winners and the three best runners-up qualifying for the knockout stages.
- The 40 clubs from seven countries have qualified for both tournaments on merit from Europe’s three leading professional championships – Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Guinness PRO14 and TOP 14 – and from the Continental Shield. NB South African clubs competing in the PRO14 are not eligible for EPCR tournaments.
- A player who is a UK citizen will be regarded as a European player for the purposes of EPCR’s tournaments.
- The 2020 Challenge Cup and Heineken Champions Cup finals will be staged at the Stade de Marseille next May.
- 2019/20 will be the 25th season of European professional club rugby.
EPCR weekends – 2019/20 season
Round 1: 15/16/17 November 2019
Round 2: 22/23/24 November 2019
Round 3: 6/7/8 December 2019
Round 4: 13/14/15 December 2019
Round 5: 10/11/12 January 2020
Round 6: 17/18/19 January 2020
Quarter-finals: 3/4/5 April 2020
Semi-finals: 1/2/3 May 2020
2020 finals – Stade de Marseille
Challenge Cup final – Friday 22 May
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 23 May