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All eyes on Switzerland as new Euro tournament drawn

Toulon won the Heineken Cup last season

Toulon won the Heineken Cup last season

  • by Richard Mulligan
 

Ulster will know their fate in Europe on Tuesday when the draw for the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup takes place in Switzerland.

The competition marks a new chapter in the history of European rugby and sees a reduction in teams taking part from 24 to 20.

PRO12 champions Leinster, French Top 14 champions and Heineken Cup winners, Toulon and Saracens are three of the top seeds.

They will be joined by two other teams from English champions, Northampton Saints, PRO12 runners-up, Glasgow Warriors and French side, Castres Olympique.

The remainder of the tiers will then be established and it appears Ulster, who finished fourth in the PRO12, will be in tier Three.

While the PRO12 and French Top 14 rankings were determined by final league placing and qualification for knockout stages, the Aviva Premiership clubs are ranked according to their positions at the end of the regular season.

It means Northampton Saints, who defeated league toppers Saracens in the final, could find themselves in Tier Two.

The comeptition is made up this season of seven Premiership and PRO12 clubs and six from France.

Five groups of four clubs each will be drawn and play home and away games as was the format of the former Heineken Cup.

The five group winners plus three best runners-up will advance to the quarter-finals.

The format will see a draw at the start to establish which two clubs ranked number two from each competing league join Saracens, Toulon and Leinster in Tier 1 .

The other tiers will then be established, based on rankings.

The key principles for the draw are:

Each of the five pools will have at least one club from each of the three Leagues.

Each of the five pools will have one club from each of the four tiers.

There will be no more than two clubs from the same League in a pool.

No pool will contain two PRO12 clubs from the same country.

Clubs from the same League will be kept apart until the allocation of the Tier 4 clubs.

In Tier 4, Sales Sharks and London Wasps will be drawn into pools which contain one other Premiership club while Toulouse will be drawn into a pool which contains one other Top 14 club.

The European Rugby Champions Cup replaced the Heineken Cup which ran for 19 seasons and ended in Cardiff at the end of May when Toulon defeated Saracens in the final.

After almost two years of negotiations, a new competition was forged in April comprising nine stakeholders - the six unions of competing teams, plus Premiership Rugby, France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby and Regional Rugby Wales - in addition to the Challenge Cup and a third qualifiying tournament.

European Rugby Champions Cup teams: Saracens, Toulon, Leinster, Northampton, Castres, Glasgow, Leicester, Montpellier, Munster, Harlequins, Racing Metro, Ulster, Bath, Clermont Auvergne, Ospreys, Sale Sharks, Toulouse, Scarlets, Wasps, Treviso.

European Rugby Challenge Cup teams: Stade Francais, Exeter, Cardiff Blues, Bordeaux-Begles, Gloucester, Edinburgh, Brive, London Irish, Newport Gwent Dragons, Bayonne, Newcastle, Connacht, Grenoble, London Welsh, Zebre, Oyonnax, Lyon, La Rochelle, plus two qualifiers to emerge from competition in September.

 

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