The EPCR Challenge Cup returns after a two-month break and the Round of 16 is set to be a gripping affair.

The first round of knockout stage action sees the 12 pool stage qualifiers join up with the four teams demoted from the Heineken Champions Cup, and the stakes are raised a notch with quarter-final places up for grabs.

In a months’ time we will know which two teams have booked their spot in the showpiece game at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 19.

The Round of 16 action begins at 20:00 (All UK & Irish time) on Friday night as Bristol Bears welcome ASM Clermont Auvergne and Scarlets entertain CA Brive.

Bristol’s clash with Clermont is set to be a cracker as two former winners of the competition go head-to-head, and an array of international talent is set to be on show at Ashton Gate.

Scarlets will hope that wing Steff Evans, the top try scorer in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup, can continue his red-hot form as the Welsh region look to build on their four straight wins in Pool B.

Toyota Cheetahs’ debut EPCR campaign has thrown up the huge challenge of a trip to TOP 14 heavyweights RC Toulon, and that clash at Stade Félix Mayol kicks off Saturday’s games at 12:30.

The South African visitors will call on all the experience of veteran scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, with Toulon boasting star names in the likes of flanker Charles Ollivon, fly-half Dan Biggar and wing Cheslin Kolbe.

That contest is followed by two intriguing match-ups at 15:00, with Stade Français Paris hosting Lyon and Connacht Rugby heading to Benetton Rugby.

Lyon are gunning for back-to-back EPCR Challenge Cup titles, but their TOP 14 rivals will provide a stern test at the Stade Jean Bouin.

Wing Mack Hansen will be a huge asset for Connacht after his Six Nations triumph with Ireland, but Benetton have threats of their own, most notably in free-scoring full-back Rhyno Smith.

The games come thick and fast on Saturday and there are two more eye-catching fixtures at 17:30 as Glasgow Warriors entertain Dragons RFC and Emirates Lions welcome Racing 92.

Centre Sione Tuipulotu impressed in the Six Nations for Scotland and will be to Glasgow’s quarter-final hopes, while exciting Dragons wing Rio Dyer is now a regular for Wales.

Emirates Lions’ meeting with three-time Heineken Champions Cup finalists Racing in Johannesburg will be the toughest assignment yet of their debut EPCR campaign, and their promising fly-half Jordan Hendrikse will need to be on song to outshine the immensely talented Finn Russell.

The Round of 16 concludes at 20:00 on Saturday as Cardiff Rugby face Sale Sharks in a blockbuster contest at Cardiff Arms Park.

There will be a noticeable Anglo-Welsh flavour to that battle as a multitude of England and Wales internationals take to the field.