The draw for the Heineken Champions Cup takes place in Lausanne on Wednesday as 24 teams go into the hat for the 2020/21 European campaign, which will see a new format introduced complete with home-and-away knockout matches.
Reigning champions Exeter Chiefs may have only just been crowned conquerors of Europe, but they immediately learn their opposition for the upcoming season, which is set to begin in December and run through to the end of May when it’s hoped the final can take place in Marseille after last season’s rescheduled events.
It’s hoped that the new format will help bring a more continental feel to the tournament, with the avoidance of any domestic matches during the pool stage as clubs will not play a team from the same league.
Exeter go into the draw as one of eight Premiership teams, joining eight apiece from the Pro14 and Top14, and find themselves in Tier One alongside fellow Premiership finalists Wasps as well as European heavyweights Leinster.
With the seedings based on league finishing positions, there are a fair few sleeping giants placed further down the tiers, with Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne and Glasgow Warriors the teams to avoid.
Here’s everything you need to know about the draw for the Heineken Champions Cup.
When is the draw?
The Heineken Champions Cup draw takes place on Wednesday 28 October in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What time does it start?
The draw will begin at 2pm GMT (3pm CET), and will be announced publicly at 3pm GMT (4pm CET).
How can I watch it?
Sadly, the draw will not be available to watch live as it will take place behind closed doors with access for clubs only.
European Professional Club Rugby will announce the pools at 3pm GMT.
Who is in the draw?
Pro14: 1 Leinster Rugby, 2 Ulster Rugby, 3 Edinburgh Rugby, 4 Munster Rugby, 5 Scarlets, 6 Connacht Rugby, 7 Glasgow Warriors, 8 Dragons
Top 14: 1 Bordeaux-Bègles, 2 Lyon, 3 Racing 9,2 4 RC Toulon, 5 La Rochelle, 6 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 7 Toulouse, 8 Montpellier
Premiership: 1 Exeter Chiefs, 2 Wasps; 3 Bristol Bears, 4 Bath Rugby, 5 Sale Sharks, 6 Harlequins, 7 Gloucester Rugby, 8 Northampton Saints
How will the draw work?
The 24 teams will be split into two pools of 12, with a four-tier system set to decide the four pool games for each club.
Two teams from each league will be placed in each tier, meaning the first and second seeds from each league go into Tier One and the third and fourth seeds enter Tier Two (and so on), and they will be split across the two pools to ensure they cannot play each other. Tier One teams will play the two Tier Four teams not from their league in home and away fixtures, while Tier Two teams will do the same with Tier Three teams.
After the four rounds have been played, the top four in each pool will qualifying for the quarter-finals, which will be played over two legs home and away, before one-off semi-finals at a neutral venue will decide who reaches the final. Clubs who finish between fifth and eighth in the pools will drop down to the Challenge Cup knockout stage.
What about the Challenge Cup draw?
There will not be a draw for the Challenge Cup this season due to the ‘exceptional’ format that has been introduced this season.
Instead, 14 teams will play four matches against teams from outside of their league, with the top eight clubs going through to a round of 16 knockout stage alongside the eight teams that drop down from the Champions Cup. Unlike the Champions Cup, the Challenge Cup will only have one-off quarter-finals due to the introduction of the round of 16.
Challenge Cup teams
Pro14: Benetton Rugby, Cardiff Blues, Zebre Rugby Club, Ospreys
Top 14: Bayonne, Castres Olympique, Brive, Pau, Agen, Stade Français Paris
Premiership: Worcester Warriors, London Irish, Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons