(Image: Photo by XAVIER LEOTY/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Irish provinces learned their pool opponents for the Heineken Champions Cup as the draw was announced in Switzerland on Wednesday.
Leinster, one of the Tier 1 sides, were drawn with French side Montpellier and England’s Bath Rugby in Pool A, both familiar opposition for the PRO14 champions.
Munster will also fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages after getting old foes Wasps and Castres Olympique in Pool B. Looking to end a nearly a decade without silverware, it will be the 9th time Munster have played Castres and the 27th occasion they’ve met Wasps.
Connacht, drawn in pool B, will begin their Champions Cup against last year’s finalists Leicester Tigers, who knocked the Westerners out of the Challenge Cup in April. Andy Friend's side will also go head to head with French side Stade Français.
Meanwhile Dan McFarland’s Ulster side will have no easy task to progress to the knockout rounds after being paired with Northampton and Clermont Auvergne in Pool A
Defending champions Toulouse will play Cardiff and Wasps to kick off their title defence.
The pool draw consisted of 24 sides drawn into 2 pools of 12, with the eight best teams from both Pool A and Pool B advancing to the knockout rounds.
The last 16 games will be played over two legs, home and away, on weekends starting 8 and 15 April, and then one-leg quarter-finals and semi-finals leading to the final in Stade Vélodrome in Marseille on 28 May.
Pool A: La Rochelle, Exeter, Leinster, Montpellier, Bath, Glasgow, Racing 92, Sale, Ulster, Clermont Auvergne, Northampton, Ospreys.
Pool B: Toulouse, Harlequins, Munster, Castres, Wasps, Cardiff, Bordeaux-Begles, Bristol, Connacht, Stade Francais, Leicester, Scarlets.
2021/22 Fixture dates
Round 1 – 10/11/12 December
Round 2 – 17/18/19 December
Round 3 – 14/15/16 January 2022
Round 4 – 21/22/23 January 2022
Round of 16 (first leg) – 8/9/10 April 2022
Round of 16 (second leg) – 15/16/17 April 2022
Quarter-finals – 6/7/8 May 2022
Semi-finals – 13/14/15 May 2022
Challenge Cup final – Friday, 27 May, 2022, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday, 28 May, 2022, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille