Exeter Chiefs will meet four-time European winners Toulouse in the pool stage of their Champions Cup defence after the draw was made for the 2020/21 campaign, with Harlequins also handed a nightmare draw.
A revamped format was unveiled by European Professional Club Rugby, with teams split into two pools of 12 this season, with four tiers split within each pool. The tier one clubs, which features the league champions from the Premiership, Pro 14 and Top 14, all feature in tier one along with the beaten finalists, while the remaining tiers are determined by the league finishing positions.
But despite conquering both league and Europe last season, Exeter knew they could face a formidable opponent in Toulouse following their seventh-placed finish in the Top 14, with Montpellier the other French option to join the double winners in Pool B, but fate had it that the four-time Heineken Cup champions will take on Rob Baxter’s side once again after their recent meeting in last season’s semi-finals.
Joining them will be Glasgow Warriors, with the Scottish outfit reaching the quarter-finals of the competition just two seasons ago.
Although each team will only play four games in this year’s pool stage, they will still be grouped into a table dependant on either Pool A or Pool B, with the top four from each set to contest in the quarter-finals while those sides placed from fifth to eighth will drop down into a round of 16 within the Challenge Cup.
But if Harlequins are going to feature in the knockout stages then they will require one of the great campaigns in European history. The London-based outfit will take on beaten finalists Racing 92 and two-time champions Munster, leaving Paul Gustard’s side with an uphill battle against two of the most established sides in Europe.
Bristol Bears head coach Pat Lam meanwhile faces a reunion with former club Connacht, the Irish club he steered to the 2015/16 Pro12 title, while formidable French side Clermont Auvergne will provide two exciting encounters at Ashton Gate and the Stade Marcel Michelin.
Beaten Premiership finalists Wasps enter Pool A as one of the top-tier seeds, earning them contests against Montpellier and the Dragons in what should prove a relatively straight-forward draw for Lee Blackett’s side, while Bath will meet the second Welsh side in the competition in the form of the Scarlets, with La Rochelle making up their bracket. Sale Sharks, who saw their top-four hopes last season ended when their final match was abandoned due to a coronavirus outbreak within their squad, will meet beaten Challenge Cup finalists and three-time winners Toulon, along with Edinburgh.
Gloucester will face Lyon and Ulster in Pool B, while Northampton Saints will meet four-time champions Leinster for the second consecutive season after being drawn together alongside Bordeaux-Begles in Pool A.
Champions Cup 2020/21 draw
Exeter Chiefs (Pool B): Toulouse and Glasgow Warriors
Wasps (Pool A): Montpellier and Dragons
Bristol Bears (Pool B): ASM Clermont Auvergne and Connacht
Bath (Pool A): La Rochelle and Scarlets
Sale Sharks (Pool A): Toulon and Edinburgh
Harlequins (Pool B): Racing 92 and Munster
Gloucester (Pool B): Lyon and Ulster
Northampton Saints (Pool A): Bordeaux-Begles and Leinster