Leinster face Warps in champions opener

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton poses with the European Champions Cup trophy
Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton poses with the European Champions Cup trophy

Leinster will begin the defence of their European Champions Cup crown against Wasps after the fixtures draw for the competition was made on Friday.

The tournament gets under way in Dublin on Friday, October 12, with four-time European champions Leinster launching the 20-team competition.

Other opening-weekend highlights on the fixture list announced by tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby see Bath host Toulouse, Exeter take on Munster, French champions Castres travelling to Gloucester and Premiership champions Saracens visiting Glasgow.

Assessing Exeter’s challenge – the Chiefs are also in Pool 2 along with Gloucester and Castres – rugby director Rob Baxter told the club’s website: “Playing Munster first up is a great start.

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter expects a tough test in the European Champions Cup
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter expects a tough test in the European Champions Cup

“We know Munster have huge tradition within the competition, so to start off at home against them is fantastic.

“If we can do well in those two games [against Munster and Castres], get ourselves a good start and a few points on the board, I think it will set us up nicely for the double-header against Gloucester [in December].”

Newcastle, meanwhile, face a tough opener on their return to top-flight European action after a 13-year absence, with French heavyweights Toulon their opponents on October 14.

The second round of fixtures a week later includes an all-Premiership contest between Wasps and Bath, with two more weekends of action in December before the pool stage concludes in January.

Fixtures for the European Challenge Cup have also been announced, with opening-round highlights on October 13 including Northampton’s home game against Clermont Auvergne, Premiership newcomers Bristol welcoming Zebre and Harlequins hosting Agen.

The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will take place at St James’ Park, Newcastle in May 2019.

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