Heineken Champions Cup draw: Edinburgh could face English and French champions in pool stage

Edinburgh could find themselves up against the champions of both France and England when the draw is made for the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup on Tuesday.

Edinburgh players celebrate at the final whistle after their Challenge Cup victory over Saracens last season. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
Edinburgh players celebrate at the final whistle after their Challenge Cup victory over Saracens last season. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

South African clubs join Europe’s elite club competition

The capital club are returning to the elite club competition after missing out last season and there will be a new look to the tournament with the inclusion for the first time of teams from South Africa.

The Stormers, Bulls and Sharks have all qualified after finishing in the top eight of the United Rugby Championship, with the Stormers winning the inaugural URC by beating Bulls in an all South African final.

How the seeding works

Edinburgh cannot meet any of their URC rivals in the pool stage but will be up against two sides from the top tier of seeds.

Mike Blair’s team, who are in the bottom (fourth) tier of seeds, will be drawn against either Leicester Tigers or Saracens, and against either Montpellier or Castres.

They will face each team home and away, giving them four pool stage matches to be played over two weekends in December and two in January.

Leicester defeated Saracens in the English Premiership final at Twickenham earlier this month while Montpellier got the better of Castres in the French Top 14 equivalent in Paris.

Edinburgh beat Saracens away in the pool stage of the European Challenge Cup last season, winning 21-18 at the StoneX Stadium. They went on to reach the quarter-finals where they lost narrowly at home to Wasps.

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12-team pools but only four games

The Champions Cup follows a similar format to last season, with the 24 teams split into two pools of 12. Each team will play four pool matches (home and away against two rival teams from a different league) and the top eight from each pool will go through to the last 16. The teams who finish in ninth and tenth place will drop into the Challenge Cup.

The round of 16 is one-legged this time around after the two-legged experiment of last season was abandoned. The remainder of the knockout stage will also be played on a one-legged basis and the final is scheduled for May 20 next year at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The competition comprises eight clubs each from the Gallagher Premiership, Top 14 and URC and the draw will be made in Dublin on Tuesday at approximately 12.25pm.

Heineken Champions Cup pool draw tiers

Tier 1: Montpellier (Fra), Castres (Fra), Leicester (Eng), Saracens (Eng), Stormers (URC), Bulls (URC)

Tier 2: Bordeaux-Bègles (Fra), Toulouse (Fra), Harlequins (Eng), Northampton (Eng), Leinster (URC), Ulster (URC)

Tier 3: La Rochelle (Fra), Racing 92 (Fra), Gloucester (Eng), Sale Sharks (Eng), Sharks (URC), Munster (URC)

Tier 4: Clermont Auvergne (Fra), Lyon (Fra), Exeter (Eng), London Irish (Eng), Edinburgh (URC), Ospreys (URC)

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