Reigning Champions Leinster Rugby, Saracens and Castres Olympique will be guaranteed top seeding when the pool draw for the Heineken Champions Cup takes place in Lausanne, Switzerland, this Wednesday, 20th June.
The draw for the 2018-19 Challenge Cup pools begins at 2.00pm Irish time and the draw for the Heineken Champions Cup pools will follow immediately afterwards.
Both draws will be streamed live on www.epcrugby.com and on official tournament Facebook channels.
Twenty clubs from Gallagher Premiership Rugby, the Guinness PRO14 and the TOP 14 have qualified on merit for the Heineken Champions Cup. The clubs will be divided into four tiers of five and a preliminary draw will be conducted to establish Tier 1 with two of the three second-ranked clubs – Exeter Chiefs, Scarlets and Montpellier – joining Heineken Champions Cup and PRO14 winners, Leinster, Premiership winners, Saracens, and TOP 14 winners, Castres, in the top tier.
Once Tier 1 has been established, the remaining three tiers will fall into place. Tier 2 will include the three third-ranked clubs from the leagues – Wasps, Glasgow Warriors and Racing 92 – as well as the second-ranked club which was not drawn into Tier 1 and the fourth-ranked club from the same league as the club which was not drawn into Tier 1.
Tier 3 will include the two clubs ranked fourth which are not in Tier 2 as well as the three fifth-ranked clubs from each league – Leicester Tigers, Edinburgh Rugby and Toulouse.
Tier 4 is complete and contains the sixth-ranked clubs from each league – Bath Rugby, Challenge Cup winners, Cardiff Blues, and RC Toulon – as well as Ulster Rugby and Gloucester Rugby.
Sale Sharks, Benetton Rugby and La Rochelle are confirmed among the Tier 1 clubs for the Challenge Cup draw which will be conducted on similar lines with four tiers and five pools.
Timisoara Saracens of Romania, who reached the penultimate stage of last season’s Continental Shield, will be included among the 20 competing clubs along with the Shield winners from Bilbao, Russia’s Enisei-STM.
In Tier 4, Stade Francais Paris, Pro D2 winners, Perpignan, and Grenoble will be drawn into pools which contain one other TOP 14 club.
Pool draws – The Key Principles
The 20 clubs are divided into four tiers based on their qualifying positions from the leagues, or on other official qualification criteria. This will be done where necessary by a preliminary draw.
The 20 clubs will then be drawn into five pools of four clubs each.
Each pool will have at least one club from each of the three leagues.
Each of the five pools will have one club from each of the four tiers.
There will be no more than two clubs from the same league in a pool.
No pool will contain two PRO14 clubs from the same country.
Clubs from the same league will be kept apart until the allocation of the Tier 4 clubs.
In the Challenge Cup draw, a club from the Continental Shield cannot be drawn into a pool which contains two TOP 14 clubs or two Premiership clubs.
EPCR key dates – 2018-19 season
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
2019 Newcastle Finals
Challenge Cup final: Friday 10 May, St James’ Park
Heineken Champions Cup final: Saturday 11 May, St James’ Park