2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures announced
Stade Toulousain, who secured an historic double of Heineken Champions Cup and TOP 14 successes last season, will begin the defence of their European title when they travel to face Cardiff Rugby on the weekend of 10/11/12 December.
This repeat of the 1996 inaugural tournament final pitting the holders against Cardiff at the Arms Park in Pool B is one of a series of high-quality matches in the fixture schedules of the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup which have been announced by tournament organisers EPCR.
A modified Challenge Cup format will see 15 clubs with 10 European titles between them competing in three pools of five (See below). Three-time finalists, RC Toulon, two-time winners, Gloucester Rugby, and Saracens, will be among the favourites to lift silverware in Marseille later this season, while another former Challenge Cup winner, Biarritz Olympique, make a welcome return to European competition after an absence of seven years.
The Heineken Champions Cup will once again be competed for by 24 elite clubs in two pools of 12 with eight representatives from each of Europe’s leading professional leagues, and last season’s defeated finalists, Stade Rochelais, will open their campaign in Pool A against Glasgow Warriors at Stade Marcel-Deflandre.
Reigning Gallagher Premiership champions, Harlequins, kick off their quest for a first top-flight European title with a visit to Castres Olympique in Round 1, and three-time tournament winners, Leinster Rugby, who will be one of the fancied clubs in this season’s United Rugby Championship (URC), start out at home against old rivals, Bath Rugby.
Highlights of the back-to-back clashes in Rounds 2 and 3 on the weekends of 17/18/19 December and 14/15/16 January 2022 feature the Pool A matches between Sale Sharks and ASM Clermont Auvergne, and the meetings of Stade Francais Paris and Bristol Bears in Pool B.
The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final in Marseille on 28 May 2022.
The 15 Challenge Cup clubs have been allocated into three pools based on their rankings from last season’s leagues and the pool stage will be played over five rounds starting on the weekend of 10/11/12 December and finishing on the weekend of 8/9/10 April 2022.
A Round of 16 will be played on the weekend of 15/16/17 April 2022, followed by quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final at the Stade Vélodrome, Marseille on 27 May 2022.
Clubs will only play against opponents from their own pool, and one club in each pool will have a bye during each round. A limited number of fixtures will see clubs playing against opponents from the same league.
Saracens will kick off their Pool C campaign with a home tie against Edinburgh Rugby, and London Irish will travel to face Section Paloise, while both Gloucester and Dragons will also be up against French opposition in Round 1 when they clash with Lyon and USAP respectively. The three highest-ranked clubs from each pool, and the highest-ranked fourth-placed club, as well as the three clubs ranked 9 to 11 from each of the Heineken Champions Cup pools, will qualify for the Round of 16.
The exact dates of the pool stage fixtures in both tournaments, as well as kick-off times and TV coverage, will be announced as soon as possible following further consultation with clubs and EPCR’s partner broadcasters.