Munster pitted against Exeter, Leinster take on Wasps and Toulouse in next season's Champions Cup

Ulster will meet Simon Zebo’s Racing 92 and Scarlets while, in the Challenge Cup, Connacht have been pitted against Sale, Bordeaux and Perpignan.

A view of the pools for the 2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

MUNSTER AND LEINSTER have two English trips ahead of them in the Champions Cup pool stages after the draw for the 2018/19 tournament was made in Lausanne today.

Ulster, meanwhile, will provide an early chance for Simon Zebo to return to Irish shores as they were drawn into a Pool containing Racing 92, Scarlets and Leicester Tigers.

Semi-finalists again last year, Munster will take on Gloucester and 2017 Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs as well as French champions Castres, who were also pool opposition for the southern province last season.

Leinster will meet Wasps, Bath and Toulouse as they defend their fourth European title.

Isa Nacewa and Jordi Murphy lift the European Rugby Champions Cup trophy Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The reigning Pro14 and European champions entered the draw as a Tier one seed, while Ulster were among the fourth Tier of teams after they needed a playoff win over Ospreys to take the final Pro14 berth in Europe’s top competition.

Before the draw proper took place in Lausanne, a draw was made between the three league runners-up to determine who missed out on top seeding.

Montpellier and Scarlets drew the long straws, leaving Exeter as a Tier two team and promoting Newcastle Falcons to the same grade. As a result, Munster were left among the third Tier of clubs and Pool 2 already looked a tough prospect before they were drawn in behind Castres and the Chiefs.

Peter O'Mahony celebrates after the game Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Connacht, meanwhile, were second seeds for the Challenge Cup draw and Andy Friend’s side have been handed an extremely tough draw. Paddy Jackson’s new employers Perpignan are the lowest-ranked club in the pool, with Bordeaux and AJ MacGinty’s Sale Sharks also bound for the Sportsground.

MacGinty, of course, played a key role in Connacht’s 2016 Pro12 title victory and the US international can expect a warm welcome if he makes the trip to Galway.

Dimitri Yachvili draws out Connacht Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Pat Lam took Connacht to face Enisei STM in Siberia in 2015, now coach of Bristol, the Samoan will hope to avoid the epic journey the Westerners embarked on when he heads for Russia. The newly branded Bears will also meet Jono Gibbes’ La Rochelle and Zebre.

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This season’s Champions and Challenge Cups will kick off on the weekend of 12-14 October with rounds three and four set for the weekend of 7 and 14 December and rounds five and six on 11 and 18 January. The fixtures for these dates will be allotted in the coming weeks.

Champions Cup

Pool 1: Leinster, Wasps, Toulouse, Bath.

Pool 2: Castres, Exeter Chiefs, Munster, Gloucester.

Pool 3: Saracens, Glasgow Warriors, Lyon, Cardiff Blues.

Pool 4: Scarlets, Racing 92, Leicester Tigers, Ulster.

Pool 5: Montpellier, Newcastle Falcons, Edinburgh, Toulon.

Challenge Cup

Pool 1: Northampton Saints, Clermont Auvergne, Dragons, Timisoara Saracens.

Pool 2: Pau, Ospreys, Worcester Warriors, Stade Francais.

Pool 3: Sale Sharks, Connacht, Bordeaux, Perpignan.

Pool 4: La Rochelle, Zebre, Bristol Bears, Enisei STM.

Pool 5: Benetton, Harlequins, Agen, Grenoble.

– First published 15.02, 20 June

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