Exeter Chiefs, who secured a first top-flight European title in such magnificent style last month, will begin their defence of the Heineken Champions Cup with an opening round clash against Glasgow Warriors on Sunday, 13 December.
The Pool B contest at Sandy Park, which will be live on BT Sport, is one of a series of high-quality matches in the fixture schedules of the 2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup which have been announced by tournament organisers EPCR.
The television coverage in the United Kingdom and Ireland of this season’s expanded Heineken Champions Cup continues to be lead by BT Sport who will once again broadcast every match live. The 24-club competition, featuring nine previous winners with 19 titles between them, will also be available on a free-to-air basis with one key match per round on Channel 4 and Virgin Media.
The opening free-to-air match which pits recent Challenge Cup winners, Bristol Bears, against experienced European campaigners, ASM Clermont Auvergne, at Ashton Gate in Pool B on Saturday, 12 December is certain to be a Round 1 highlight.
On the same day, Guinness PRO14 champions, Leinster Rugby, start their quest for a record fifth title against Montpellier at the GGL Stadium in Pool B, while Wasps, who were defeated by Exeter Chiefs in the Gallagher Premiership final, take on the Dragons at Rodney Parade in Pool A as the Welsh region makes a return to the tournament for the first time in 10 years.
The journey to the 2021 finals weekend in Marseille gets under way on Friday, 11 December when former winners, Northampton Saints, host the number one-ranked TOP 14 representative, Bordeaux-Bègles, at Franklin’s Gardens in Pool A, followed by the Pool B meeting of Ulster Rugby and four-time champions, Toulouse, at the Kingspan Stadium.
The modified Challenge Cup, which starts with 14 clubs, also kicks off on Friday, 11 December with newly-promoted, Newcastle Falcons, up against Cardiff Blues at Kingston Park, Leicester Tigers taking on Brive at Mattioli Woods Welford Road and Stade Francais Paris hosting Benetton Rugby at Stade Jean-Bouin.
- A total of 38 clubs from six countries have qualified on merit for the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup from Europe’s three leading professional championships – Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Guinness PRO14 and TOP 14.
- The Heineken Champions Cup consists of two pools of 12 clubs with the pool stage played over four rounds. The four highest-ranked clubs in each pool will qualify for the quarter-finals which will be played over two legs on a home and away basis.
- The clubs ranked 5 to 8 in Pool A and 5 to 8 in Pool B will qualify for the Round of 16 of the Challenge Cup.
- Fourteen clubs will compete over four rounds in the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup with the eight highest-ranked clubs, as well as eight Heineken Champions Cup clubs, qualifying for the Round of 16.
- There is no limit to the number of players that clubs can nominate in their tournament squads at first registration, and no limit to the number of non-European players in a match day squad.
- The 2021 Challenge Cup and Heineken Champions Cup finals will be played in Marseille next May.
- The 2020/21 season is the 25th anniversary of Heineken’s association with European professional club rugby.
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
Marseille 2021 finals
Challenge Cup final – Friday 21 May, Stade Vélodrome
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 22 May, Stade Vélodrome