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Connacht among the five top seeds for next week's Champions Cup draw

The pool draws for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will take place in Neuchâtel on Wednesday.

Connacht captain John Muldoon celebrates with the Guinness Pro12 trophy following their win over Leinster in last month's final.
Connacht captain John Muldoon celebrates with the Guinness Pro12 trophy following their win over Leinster in last month's final.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE FOUR IRISH provinces will discover their opponents for next season’s European Champions Cup pool stages when the draw is made next Wednesday in Neuchâtel.

After they were crowned Guinness Pro12 champions thanks to last month’s Grand Final victory against Leinster, Connacht will be one of the five top seeds in the draw.

They’ll join Premiership champions Saracens and the winners of tomorrow night’s Top 14 final between Toulon and Racing 92 in Tier 1. A preliminary draw including the three second-ranked clubs — Leinster, Exeter Chiefs and the losers of the French decider — will be conducted in advance of the main draw to determine which two teams will complete Tier 1.

Tier 2 will be made up of the three third-ranked clubs from each of the leagues — Glasgow Warriors, Wasps and Clermont Auvergne — as well as the second-ranked club which was not drawn into Tier 1 and the fourth-ranked club from the same league as the club which was not drawn into Tier 1 — which could be Ulster, Leicester Tigers or Montpellier.

The two clubs ranked fourth which are not in Tier 2, as well as the three fifth-ranked clubs from each league — Scarlets, Northampton Saints and Toulouse — will feature in Tier 3.

Tier 4 is already complete and contains the sixth-ranked clubs from each league — Munster, Sale Sharks and Castres — as well as Zebre and the seventh-ranked club from the Top 14, Bordeaux-Bègles.

According to EPCR’s key principles, Sale Sharks must be drawn into a pool which contains one other Premiership club, Castres and Bordeaux-Bègles will both be drawn into pools which contain one other Top 14 club, while Munster cannot be drawn into a pool which contains another Irish province.

Beginning at 1pm Irish time with the draw for the European Challenge Cup, the event will be broadcast live on Sky Sports News and streamed on www.epcrugby.com.

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Paul Dollery

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