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Defending champions Saracens to clash with Munster after Heineken Champions Cup draw announced

Defending champions Saracens to clash with Munster after Heineken Champions Cup draw announced

Defending champions Saracens will renew their European rivalry with Munster next season after the two clubs were drawn together in Pool 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup.

The Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions Saracens did the double this season having beat their Irish rivals 32-16 in the semi-finals en route to last month’s triumph, their third European success, and will be looking to get another one over the PRO14 side. 

Joining Mark McCall’s side in the so called ‘Pool of Death’ are 2017/18 semi-finalists Racing 92 and the only Welsh side in the competition Ospreys.

Elsewhere, Exeter Chiefs new boy Stuart Hogg is set for an immediate reunion with former club Glasgow Warriors after the two sides were drawn together in Pool 2.

Scotland full-back Hogg, who spent nine years at the Warriors before moving to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby runners-up this summer, will be back at the Scotstoun much earlier than he may have anticipated after being drawn in a group which also contains French outfit La Rochelle and fellow Gallagher Premiership Rugby side Sale Sharks.

The Chiefs have got the better of their Scottish foes in Europe of late while they have also previously faced La Rochelle, in the Challenge Cup during the 2014/15 season, but this will be Exeter’s first encounter with Sale in European competition.

Exeter director of rugby Baxter said: “It was almost destined that with us having signed Stuart from Glasgow this season that he would end up facing them in Europe. I think he even predicted it himself in an interview last week!

“Having played Glasgow in the past, we know they will pose a tough challenge to us. They have a team packed with Scottish internationals and are a team, a bit like ourselves, who really like to attack.

“A couple of years ago we got the better of them here in the early rounds, but then they got their own back on us by beating us in that final round game up in the snow.

“As for La Rochelle, it’s been a few years since we faced them in the Challenge Cup. Again, they will be a different beast to what they were back then – and as for Sale, every year when you look at the fixture list, you always know going up there is one of your toughest away days.

“Yes, it’s another tough group when you look at it on paper, but this is the top competition in Europe so there shouldn’t be any easy games in there. I’m sure the other teams will be looking at this pool and thinking it’s not going to be easy, especially with Exeter in there.

“It’s a good draw for us. At the same time, I want us to start setting ourselves these challenges of being a top European side. We’ve been guilty in the past of not quite reaching our potential within this competition, but hopefully that will change this season.

Pool 1 sees Gallagher Premiership Rugby side Northampton Saints join four-time Champions Cup winners Leinster while French and Italian sides Lyon and Benetton make up the pool.

Harlequins and Bath Rugby, who finished fifth and sixth respectively in the Gallagher Premiership this season, are together in Pool 3 alongside Challenge Cup winners Clermont and Ulster.

Rounding off the draw, Gloucester take their place in Pool 5 and are joined by two French sides in the form of Toulouse and Montpellier as well as Irish team Connacht.

The draws mapped out the first steps of the 25th season of European professional club rugby which will culminate in Marseille in May 2020 and almost 30,000 tickets have already been bought by fans for what promises to be another memorable Finals Weekend.

2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup pools

Pool 1: Leinster Rugby, Lyon, Northampton Saints, Benetton Rugby

Pool 2: Exeter Chiefs, Glasgow Warriors, La Rochelle, Sale Sharks

Pool 3: ASM Clermont Auvergne, Ulster Rugby, Harlequins, Bath Rugby

Pool 4: Saracens, Munster Rugby, Racing 92, Ospreys

Pool 5: Toulouse, Gloucester Rugby, Connacht Rugby, Montpellier

2019/20 Challenge Cup pools

Pool 1: Castres Olympique, Worcester Warriors, Dragons, Enisei-STM

Pool 2: Scarlets, RC Toulon, London Irish, Bayonne

Pool 3: Wasps, Edinburgh Rugby, Bordeaux-Bègles, Agen

Pool 4: Stade Français Paris, Bristol Bears, Zebre Rugby Club, Brive

Pool 5: Cardiff Blues, Leicester Tigers, Pau, Rugby Calvisano

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

Challenge Cup final – Friday 22 May

Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 23 May

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