Saracens, last season’s winners of an historic Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership double, will get their 2016/17 European campaign underway with a truly heavyweight clash against three-time champions, RC Toulon, at Stade Félix Mayol on Saturday, 15 October.
The Anglo-French Pool 3 match is just one of numerous high-profile confrontations in the fixtures schedules for Rounds 1 to 4 of this season's Champions Cup and Challenge Cup which were announced today by tournament organisers EPCR.
Connacht Rugby, who captured the PRO12 title in magnificent style last season, will be guaranteed a full house at The Sportsground for the Round 1 visit of four-time tournament winners, Toulouse, also on Saturday, 15 October, while last season's TOP 14 champions, Racing 92, host Munster under new Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, at Stade Yves-Du-Manoir on Sunday, 16 October.
2016 Challenge Cup winners, Montpellier, kick off their European season with a demanding Pool 4 fixture against Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday, 15 October.
Scarlets, who were drawn in the ultra-competitive Pool 3 with Saracens, Toulon and Sale Sharks, open up against Sale at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, 15 October.
Toulouse are moving their mouthwatering Round 2 game against Wasps to Le Stadium on Sunday, 23 October, and Leinster Rugby will attract another big attendance for the Round 4 visit of the Saints to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 17 December.
All 40 matches in Rounds 1 to 4 of the Champions Cup will be broadcast live in the UK and Ireland on either BT Sport or Sky Sports while all games will be covered in France either live or delayed by beIN Sports and France Télévisions.
Bristol Rugby make their return to European competition for the first time since the 2008/09 season when they take on old rivals, Cardiff Blues, in Round 1 of the Challenge Cup at Ashton Gate on Friday, 14 October.
Newcomers, Timisoara Saracens of Romania, are in Pool 5 action against Edinburgh Rugby at the Dan Paltinisanu Stadium on Saturday, 15 October.
What promises to be an epic journey to the 2017 finals weekend at Edinburgh's BT Murrayfield Stadium begins on Sky Sports with the Challenge Cup head-to-head between European stalwarts Harlequins and Stade Francais Paris at the Twickenham Stoop on Thursday, 13 October.
Then the Champions Cup will be up and running on Friday, 14 October on BT Sport when Glasgow Warriors and Leicester Tigers clash at Scotstoun Stadium.
The dates, kick-off times and TV coverage for the Round 5 and 6 fixtures in both tournaments will be announced in December following the completion of the Round 4 matches.
- The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup each consist of five pools of four clubs with the five pool winners and the three best runners-up qualifying for the knockout stages
- The 40 clubs from eight countries in both tournaments have qualified on merit from Europe's three main professional leagues – the Aviva Premiership, PRO12 and TOP 14 – and from the Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition
- The 2017 Challenge Cup and Champions Cup finals will be staged at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh on 12 and 13 May next year
- Timisoara Saracens of Romania will be making their debut in the Challenge Cup while Bristol Rugby will be returning to European competition for the first time since the 2008/09 season
- All four Irish provinces have qualified by right for Europe's top flight for the first time
- 2016/17 will be the 22nd season of European professional club rugby
Round 1: 13/14/15/16 October
Round 2: 20/21/22/23 October
Round 3: 8/9/10/11 December
Round 4: 15/16/17/18 December
Round 5: 12/13/14/15 January 2017
Round 6: 19/20/21/22 January 2017
Quarter-finals: 30/31 March – 1/2 April 2017
Semi-finals: 21/22/23 April 2017
Finals Edinburgh 2017
European Rugby Challenge Cup: Friday 12 May, BT Murrayfield Stadium
European Rugby Champions Cup: Saturday 13 May, BT Murrayfield Stadium