Gallagher Premiership teams travelling far and wide for Challenge Cup
The five pools for next season’s European Challenge Cup have been announced and there is a Gallagher Premiership representative in each of them.
It was an all-French final last time around with ASM Clermont Auvergne prevailing but Worcester Warriors, London Irish, Wasps, Bristol Bears and Leicester Tigers will all be itching to get their hands on the trophy when next season comes around.
South African World Cup winner Bryan Habana and France legend Dimitri Yachvili were on hand to pull the names out of the hat in Lausanne, Switzerland.
⚔️ Your #ChallengeCupRugby Pools ⚔️
Initial thoughts about the draw?? How are your team’s chances?? 🧐
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) June 19, 2019
Pool 1: Castres, Worcester Warriors, Dragons, Enisei-STM
Worcester Warriors will be travelling far and wide for their European rugby next season with trips to France, Wales and Russia all in the offing.
Worcester drew Dragons and Enisei-STM in the same pool in the 2016/17 Challenge Cup, beating both at Sixways but losing on the road.
Meanwhile Castres will become the 13th French club Warriors have played in European competition.
— Worcester Warriors ⚔️ (@WorcsWarriors) June 19, 2019
Pool 2: Scarlets, Toulon, London Irish, Bayonne
The Gallagher-Premiership-returning Exiles have been drawn against Welsh PRO14 outfit Scarlets and Top14 duo Bayonne and Toulon.
Irish last met Toulon in the 2010/11 edition of the Heineken Champions Cup when they lost narrowly at home before the French side triumphed 38-17 at the Stade Felix Mayol.
We need to go back to 2006 for the last meeting with Bayonne when tries from Topsy Ojo and Riki Flutey helped them to a 48-5 quarter-final victory.
And Irish were downed twice when they faced Scarlets back in 2009.
Pool 3: Wasps, Edinburgh, Bordeaux, Agen
Wasps’ European travels will see them make the trip north to visit Edinburgh and cross the channel to meet with Bordeaux and Agen.
Edinburgh were beaten finalists back in 2014/15 when they fell to Gloucester at The Twickenham Stoop and have previous with Wasps when Dave Walder bagged all the points in a 19-11 win at Adams Park a decade ago.
Wasps met Agen in the Challenge Cup back in 2011/12 winning both home and away while Bordeaux limped to a 10th-place finish in the Top14 last season.
🐝Wasps will face:
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) June 19, 2019
Pool 4: Stade Francais, Bristol Bears, Zebre, Brive
Bristol will lock horns with 2016/17 champions Stade Francais in arguably the toughest tie in their pool.
The Parisian outfit finished eighth in the Top14 last season but still possess a small armoury of attacking talent that Pat Lam’s side will need to be wary of.
Meanwhile Bristol faced Zebre in the pool stage of last season’s competition, winning the home game 43-22 before going down 20-17 in Parma.
And Brive survived the Top14 by the skin of their teeth last season thanks to a victory over Grenoble in a promotion/relegation play-off so will have a point to prove to their fans when they return to action.
Pool 5: Cardiff Blues, Leicester Tigers, Pau, Calvisano
It will be a fledgling flight in the competition for Leicester Tigers when they take on Cardiff Blues, Pau and Calvisano.
Cardiff Blues pose the biggest threat as 2010 and 2018 champions and will add Josh Adams and Hallam Amos to their ranks by the time the fixture comes around.
Pau were Challenge Cup winners in 2000 and finalists in 2005 and returned with a vengeance for the 2017/18 edition making it to the semi-finals.
And a meeting with Calvisano poses a clash of auld enemies with the two sides pooled together on a regular basis during the early part of the millennium.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) June 19, 2019
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
Challenge Cup final – Friday 22 May