Leinster Rugby, who last season became only the second club in history to win Europe’s blue-riband club tournament for a fourth time, will begin the defence of their title with a mouthwatering Heineken Champions Cup clash against Wasps at the RDS Arena on Friday, 12 October.
The Pool 1 confrontation live on BT Sport is only one of a host of top-quality matches in the fixture schedules for all six rounds of the 2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup which have been announced by tournament organisers EPCR.
While BT Sport continues to lead the television coverage of the Heineken Champions Cup in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the competition which last season featured global stars from 26 countries, will be more accessible than ever to supporters with one key match per round broadcast live and free-to-air on Channel 4 and *TV3.
Former tournament winners, Bath Rugby and Toulouse, are set to kick off the free-to-air coverage when they meet in Pool 1 at the Recreation Ground on Saturday, 13 October.
Premiership champions, Saracens, begin their campaign on Sunday, 14 October when they take on Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium, and last season’s Guinness PRO14 runners-up, Scarlets, will be at home against the 2018 Champions Cup defeated finalists, Racing 92, on Saturday, 13 October.
TOP 14 winners, Castres Olympique, make the journey to Kingsholm to face Gloucester Rugby in Pool 2 on Sunday, 14 October, while Cardiff Blues, who triumphed in last season’s Challenge Cup, go head-to-head with tournament debutants Lyon at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland on the same day.
To mark the start of what promises to be an eventful road to the 2019 Newcastle finals, Newcastle Falcons are back in Europe’s top flight for the first time since 2005 and Dean Richards’ side have a demanding opening fixture against RC Toulon at Stade Mayol on Sunday, 14 October.
Highlights of the vital back-to-back matches in Rounds 3 and 4 include the meeting of Saracens and Cardiff Blues, Munster Rugby’s clashes with Castres, the games between Wasps and Toulouse, and Racing 92 and Leicester Tigers, while Leinster’s Round 4 fixture with Bath on Saturday, 15 Decemberwill generate another big attendance at the Aviva Stadium.
All 60 matches in Rounds 1 to 6 of the Heineken Champions Cup will be broadcast live in the UK and Ireland on either BT Sport, Channel 4 or TV3, and in France on beIN SPORTS and France Télévisions.
With as many as 12 European titles among the contenders, the Challenge Cup is set for another strong season and the meeting of former winners, Northampton Saints and ASM Clermont Auvergne, at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, 13 October is one of a number of eye-catching Round 1 fixtures, while Perpignan, who return to Europe for the first time since 2014, clash with Sale Sharks at Stade Aimé Giral on Friday, 12 October.
In addition, the Ospreys take on Pau at the Liberty Stadium, Connacht Rugby are at home against Bordeaux-Bègles, Harlequins host Agen, Bristol Bears are up against Zebre Rugby Club, and Worcester Warriors travel to Stade Francais Paris all on Saturday, 13 October.
*TV3’s free-to-air channels, TV3, 3e and be3, will be rebranded Virgin Media One, Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Three on 30 August. All live Heineken Champions Cup fixtures will be broadcast on Virgin Media One.
• The Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup each consist of five pools of four clubs with the five pool winners and the three best runners-up qualifying for the knockout stages.
• The 40 clubs from eight countries have qualified for both tournaments on merit from Europe’s three leading professional championships – Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Guinness PRO14 and TOP 14 – and from the Continental Shield.
• South African clubs competing in the Guinness PRO14 are not eligible for EPCR tournaments.
• The Challenge Cup and Heineken Champions Cup finals at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 May 2019 will kick off at 19.45 and 17.00 respectively.
• 2018/19 will be the 24th season of European professional club rugby
Round 1: 12/13/14 October
Round 2: 19/20/21 October
Round 3: 7/8/9 December
Round 4: 14/15/16 December
Round 5: 11/12/13 January 2019
Round 6: 18/19/20 January 2019
Quarter-finals: 29/30/31 March 2019
Semi-finals: 19/20/21 April 2019