The road to next season’s Heineken Champions Cup final in Marseille will begin to be mapped out when the pool draw for the 2021/22 tournament is staged in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday, 21 July at 12.00 (UK and Irish time).
The draw, which will be live-streamed on HeinekenChampionsCup.com, will include Stade Toulousain, who recently completed the Heineken Champions Cup and TOP 14 double in the same season for the second time in their history, Harlequins, who triumphed in a spectacular Gallagher Premiership final, and Guinness PRO14 winners, Leinster Rugby.
The Heineken Champions Cup will once again be competed for by 24 clubs with eight representatives from the Premiership, the PRO14 and the TOP 14 having secured their places. (See qualifiers and rankings below)
For the purposes of the draw which will be run on the same lines as last season, the clubs will first be placed into four tiers based on their rankings, before being drawn into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B. Clubs from the same league in the same tier will not be drawn into the same pool.
The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs will be in Tier 2, the number 5 and 6 ranked clubs will be in Tier 3, and the number 7 and number 8 ranked clubs will be Tier 4. (See tiers below)
The Tier 1 and the Tier 4 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage, as will the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league.
Scarlets will be ranked in Tier 3 which means they will play either of the second-tier English clubs (Bristol and Sale Sharks) and either of the second-tier French clubs (Racing 92 and Bordeaux-Begles).
Once the draw is concluded, clubs will know their pool stage opponents and EPCR will begin work on the fixture schedule with an announcement of exact dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage following as soon as practicable.
The 2021/22 tournament will be played over nine weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December when Stade Toulousain begin the defence of their title. The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final in Marseille on 28 May 2022.
2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup qualifiers
Gallagher Premiership: 1 Harlequins, 2 Exeter Chiefs, 3 Bristol Bears, 4 Sale Sharks, 5 Northampton Saints, 6 Leicester Tigers, 7 Bath Rugby, 8 Wasps
Guinness PRO14: 1 Leinster Rugby, 2 Munster Rugby, 3 Ulster Rugby, 4 Connacht Rugby, 5 Scarlets, 6 Ospreys, 7 Cardiff Rugby, 8 Glasgow Warriors
TOP 14: 1 Stade Toulousain, 2 Stade Rochelais, 3 Racing 92, 4 Union Bordeaux-Bègles, 5 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 6 Stade Français Paris, 7 Castres Olympique, 8 Montpellier Hérault Rugby
Pool Draw tiers
Tier 1: Harlequins, Exeter Chiefs, Leinster Rugby, Munster Rugby, Stade Toulousain, Stade Rochelais
Tier 2: Bristol Bears, Sale Sharks, Ulster Rugby, Connacht Rugby, Racing 92, Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Tier 3: Northampton Saints, Leicester Tigers, Scarlets, Ospreys, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Stade Français Paris
Tier 4: Bath Rugby, Wasps, Cardiff Rugby, Glasgow Warriors, Castres Olympique, Montpellier Hérault Rugby