Ulster to start Euro quest at Welford Road

Ulster's Nick Williams is back in training after injury
Ulster's Nick Williams is back in training after injury

It may be under a different name but Ulster will start their quest for European Rugby Champions Cup glory against familiar foes when they travel to Welford Road to face two-time champions Leicester Tigers on Saturday, October 18.

It’s the fourth time the sides have been drawn together in Europe – Ulster hold the advantage with four victories to the English Premiership side’s two.

Ulster secured back-to-back victories over the Tigers in last season’s competition on route to winning all six pool games, a Tommy Bowe try and 17 points from the boot of Paddy Jackson saw Ulster home by 22-16 in Belfast while Ruan Pienaar scored all the points in a 22-19 victory in the East Midlands.

Coach Richard Cockerill has been busy this summer, England out half Freddie Burns has been brought from Gloucester to replace Toby Flood, utility back Christian Loamanu, hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and flanker Robert Barbieri have also joined the Tigers.

Ulster’s first game at the Kingspan Stadium sees back-to-back champions Toulon provide the opposition on Saturday, October 25 (1pm).

Their star-studded squad reads as a who’s who of international rugby featuring new arrivals British Lions full back Leigh Halfpenny and Australian James O’Connor arriving at the Stade Mayol.

Times and dates have only been confirmed for the first two rounds, Ulster will face back-to-back clashes in December with the Scarlets the first being in Belfast.

Ulster travel to France for the return match with Toulon on the weekend of January 16 before finishing the campaign at home to Leicester a week later.

Meanehile, Prop Wiehahn Herbst arrives in the province tomorrow and there is mixed news on the injury front.

Polynesian powerhouse Nick Williams is recovering well from the knee injury he sustained in the final league game of last season, but Irish out half Paddy Jackson is likely to be rested for both pre-season games to give him maximum to recover from the back injury that ruled him out of the summer tour to Argentina.