The draws for both The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup took place in Lausanne, Switzerland this afternoon.
The Challenge Cup draw was up first so we’ll deal with it first.
Edinburgh were in tier two and were drawn against – Wasps, Bordeaux Begle and Agen and allocated Pool 3.
Wasps have won the Champions Cup twice in 2004 and 2007 and have also won the Challenge Cup in 2003 so have a fairly healthy pedigree in terms of European rugby competitions. That said they had a difficult 2018-2019 domestic season finishing eighth in the Premiership. We can look forward to seeing the likes of Lima Sopoaga and the “is he/isn’t he” Scottish scrum half Ben Vellacott run out at Murrayfield.
Bordeaux-Begles finished 10th in the Top 14 in the season that has just finished and having only been formed in 2006 don’t have the success on the European field of play like Wasps do. I can imagine there will be a few Edinburgh fans making the trip to Bordeaux.
Agen flirted with relegation from the Top 14 last season finishing third from bottom. They do have silverware to their name having won their league although their last title came in 1988. Like Edinburgh they have been beaten Challenge Cup finalists having lost to Colomiers in the final in 1998.
Duncan Weir’s Worcester Warriors are in Pool 1 and face Castre, Dragons and Enisei. So a trip to Russia awaits the marmite stand off and friends.
Alan Dell freshly arrived at a Guinness-free London Irish has a tough looking Pool 2 that includes Scarlets, Toulon and Bayonne who may or may not still have killer B Johnny Beattie, amongst their ranks.
In the pre-draw for the Champions Cup, Glasgow Warriors ended up being placed in Tier 2 and as it turned out that brought an extra level of excitement as they were confirmed, almost inevitably, in Pool 2 alongside Exeter Chiefs, La Rochelle and Sale Sharks.
So it’s an early return to Scotstoun for Stuart Hogg with his Exeter team (also including Sam Skinner) in what most of us will be anticipating as one of the ties of the group stages. Since they were promoted to the Premiership in 2010 they have climbed the league steadily and have been champions or runners up in all of the last 4 years. Their record over the same period in Europe isn’t as impressive however as they have failed to qualify for the knockout stages in their last 3 attempts.
La Rochelle, or to give them their correct title, Stade Rochelais finished this last season as semi-finalists in the Top 14 losing to eventual winners Toulouse and as runners up to Clermont in the Challenge Cup.
Sale Sharks have a Scottish contingent in the shape of Josh Strauss and Byron McGuigan. They also have a significant Afrikaans look about them with scrum half Faff de Klerk being joined by 6 new South African players for this new season including the hugely impressive Lood De Jager. They had a mixed domestic season in the year just finished, but seem like a team that is still building. They have won the Challenge Cup twice in 2002 and 2005 but have not made it out of the group stages in the Champions Cup since 2006.
There are Scots in teams in every Pool of the Champions Cup this year so plenty for us to focus on post world cup.
Full details of the draws for both competitions cans be found at –https://www.epcrugby.com/european-professional-club-rugby/
As far as fixtures go the following dates have been designated for European competition:
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
Heineken Champions Cup final: Saturday 23 May.