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Munster await ‘Rog’s’ return to Thomond Park

By Frank Quinn
THERE is nothing easy for any of the 20 teams in the five pools of four after today’s draw for next season’s European Clubs Champions Cup. First glance: Connacht has Zebre (always a bonus point opportunity for a second placed qualifier), with Wasps and Toulouse. The Irish province has an opportunity here.
As for the other three provinces, Leinster has Castres who are the worst performers in the Euro Cup, with Montpelier and Northampton. Two trips to France for the blue supporters to look forward to.
Ulster has newcomers Bordeaux who will have Ian Madigan in their squad, with Exeter and Claremont making up the quartet. Two French trips also beckoning here.
Munster has Glasgow Warriors while the return of Ronan O’Gara to Thomond Park with French champions Racing 92 is a mouth-watering prospect. Leicester Tigers will also provide a stiff challenge in this pool.
The final pool consists of champions Saracens, Toulon, Sale Sharks and Scarlets and this group also looks like being a difficult one to get out of.
The strength of the Irish is that we have a team in 4/5 pools, which is admirable, as the new rules made sure we avoided each other.
This season the quarter finals will consist of five pool winners and three second placed teams when the knock-out stages begin next March/April.
2016/17 Champions Cup pools
Pool 1: Racing 92, Glasgow Warriors, Leicester Tigers, Munster Rugby
Pool 2: Connacht Rugby, Wasps, Toulouse, Zebre Rugby
Pool 3: Saracens, RC Toulon, Scarlets, Sale Sharks
Pool 4: Leinster Rugby, Montpellier, Northampton Saints, Castres Olympique
Pool 5: Exeter Chiefs, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Ulster Rugby, Bordeaux-Bègles
2016/17 Challenge Cup pools
Pool 1: La Rochelle, Gloucester Rugby, Benetton Treviso, Bayonne
Pool 2: Ospreys, Grenoble, Newcastle Falcons, Lyon
Pool 3: Brive, Worcester Warriors, Newport Gwent Dragons, Enisei-STM
Pool 4: Cardiff Blues, Bath Rugby, Pau, Bristol Rugby
Pool 5: Harlequins, Edinburgh Rugby, Stade Français Paris, Timisoara, Saracens
EPCR weekends – 2016/17
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

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