Ulster Rugby face tough French and English opponents in their Champions Cup group

Ulster face tough French and English opposition in this season’s premier European rugby competition

James Hume
Ulster James Hume and Stade Toulousain Francois Cros during Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup match at Kingspan Stadium. Picture by Brian Little

ULSTER face a tough group ahead of them in this year’s Champions Cup pools, including a rematch with Champions Cup holders Stade Toulousain, who boast French superstar Antoine Dupont amongst their ranks.

Les Rouge et Noir are the only familiar opponents from last year though, as the Ulstermen also face Leicester Tigers, Union Bordeaux Bègles, and Exeter Chiefs in the competition.

Le Stade comes into this year’s competition as champions of Europe after defeating Leinster in last year’s final with a scoreline of 31-22 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Toulouse will enter the competition as Top 14 (the French first division) champions as well after beating Bordeaux 59-3 in the final, which means that Ulster, who were eliminated from last year’s Champions Cup in the group stage, will face the top two French sides.

Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers finished seventh and eighth respectively in the Gallagher’s Premiership last season, which was just enough for the two sides to qualify for European Rugby’s top competition.

Hollywoodbets Sharks have also been drawn into the group but seeing as Ulster will already play them in the United Rugby Championship (URC), the two sides are exempt from meeting in the Champions Cup.

Ulster qualified for the Champions Cup pool stage after finishing inside the top eight of the URC and qualifying for the play-off stage of the competition.

Ulster's Nick Timoney scores a try against Racing 92 during their Investec European Rugby Champions Cup win at Kingspan Stadium. Picture: Brian Little

Last season they were entered into the Challenge Cup round of 16 after crashing out of the Champions Cup pool stage after recording only one win, which was against Racing 92.

In this competition, Ulster dispatched French outfit Montpellier Heráult 40-13 away from home before losing to Clermont Auvergne with Pita-Gus Sowakula and Peceli Yato recording two tries each to send the Ulstermen packing.

The first round of pool fixtures will be played between December 6-8 and the last round between January 17-19.

The final for this year’s European rugby competitions will take place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, home of Cardiff Rugby and the Welsh national rugby team.

EPCR will now begin work on the fixture schedule, with exact dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage to be announced in due course.