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Dublin: 11°C Thursday 6 May 2021

A little luck could go a long way for Irish provinces as Champions Cup draw sets stall for the season ahead

To avoid another clash with Racing 92, Munster will hope the seedings fall their way ahead of this afternoon’s draw.

WITH A THIRD weekend of international fixtures ahead, the end of the 2017/18 northern hemisphere rugby season is nigh.

Tadhg Furlong celebrates with the PRO14 and Champions Cup trophies Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Fortunately, come 2pm today a framework for the 2018/19 season ahead will reveal itself as clubs, regions and provinces learn what they’re up against in European competition when that famed rugby heartland of Lausanne, Switzerland will once again be the site of the EPCR competition draw.

Before the pool draw proper takes place, there will be a few straws to be pulled to determine exactly which team will occupy the top three (of four) tiers. And this will be of particular interest to Munster.

rankings Rankings by league ahead of Champions Cup draw.

While Leinster and Ulster are guaranteed to be in Tier one and four respectively (and Connacht will be in Tier 2 for the Challenge Cup draw), Johann Van Graan could enter his first pre-season as a head coach as either a second or third-ranked team.

The top Tier of seeds will be league champions Leinster, Saracens and Castres plus two of the runners-up: Exeter, Montpellier or Scarlets.

Starting the day as a possible Tier 3 team, Munster stakeholders will hope to see Scarlets lose out in this drawing of lots for the top Tier. As ‘the fourth-ranked club from the same league as the club which was not drawn into Tier 1′, that scenario would see Munster rise into the company (and therefore avoid being drawn against) Wasps, Glasgow Warriors and their very familiar foes Racing 92.

Munster's Sammy Arnold supported by Niall Scannell goes past Racing 92’s Maxime Machenaud Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Alternatively, if Scarlets are anointed as a Tier one team, then Munster will be a Tier three side alongside Leicester, Edinburgh and Toulouse.

Irish provinces will not be drawn together in the pool stage and no more than two teams from the same league can be pitted against one another in the four-team pools.

Each group will have at least one representative from the Pro14, Top14 and Premiership — the second representative from each league will not come before the fourth Tier teams are allotted.

Champions Cup draw seedings

TIER ONE: Leinster, Saracens, Castres (plus two of Scarlets, Montpellier and Exeter)

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TIER TWO: Racing 92, Wasps, Glasgow Warriors (plus second-ranked team not drawn in T1 and the fourth-ranked team from the same league).

TIER THREE: Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Edinburgh (plus two of Munster, Lyon and Newcastle Falcons).

TIER FOUR:  Toulon, Bath, Cardiff, Gloucester and Ulster.

Osprey's team run at Ulster’s John Cooney as he kicks a conversion Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Sample pool draw for provinces:

Leinster, Wasps, Lyon, Toulon

Exeter, Racing 92, Munster, Bath

Scarlets, Newcastle, Toulouse, Ulster

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, rounds five and six on 11 and 18 January and the quarter-final stage taking place on the last weekend in March 2019.

Pat Lam arrives at the Sportsground Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

The same rules will cover the Challenge Cup draw as 20 teams prepare to be divided across five four-team pools.

Connacht will be in Tier two for the draw and so will avoid a pool clash with Clermont Auvergne, though they could come up against Pat Lam’s newly promoted Bristol Bears who will be among the third Tier of seeds.

Challenge Cup draw seedings

TIER ONE: La Rochelle, Sale Sharks, Benetton (plus two of Pau, Northampton Saints and Ospreys)

TIER TWO: Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins, Connacht (plus second-ranked team not drawn in T1 and the fourth-ranked team from the same league).

TIER THREE: Agen, Bristol Bears, Dragons (plus two of Bordeaux, Worcester and Zebre).

TIER FOUR: Stade Francais, Perpignan, Grenoble, Enisei STM, Timisoara Saracens.

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Sean Farrell

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