The importance of Munster getting a good start to their Champions Cup campaign was underlined by the release of the pool fixtures this morning.
They will kick off with a trip to Swansea to face the Ospreys on Saturday, November 16, followed by the visit of Racing 92 to Limerick seven days later. The latter game may well see former Munster stars Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo make their playing returns to Thomond Park.
As if that challenge wasn't tough enough, Munster will then head into back-to-back fixtures against reigning champions Saracens, who are bidding to win their fourth crown in five years. The first of those fixtures will be hosted at Thomond Park on Saturday, December 7.
Saracens knocked Munster out at the semi-final stage in 2017 and 2019, while Racing eliminated the Reds at the same juncture in 2018. However, both sides lost on their last visits to Thomond Park in 2014 and 2017 respectively.
2019 runners-up Leinster will begin their attempt win back the European title at the RDS with the arrival of Benetton on November 16.
That's followed by a trip to Lyon before back-to-back games against Northampton Saints, a repeat of the 2011 final. The round 4 clash between the pair will be played at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, December 14.
Connacht's return to the competition for the first time in three seasons will begin with a game at home to Montpellier at The Sportsground on Sunday, November 17. They will head on the road to Toulouse and Gloucester before the return trip of the English club to Galway in round 4.
Ulster will be the first Irish team in action on November 16, heading away to Bath in the early fixture. They will take on Clermont Auvergne at the Kingspan Stadium the following Friday before back-to-back games against Harlequins.
Virgin Media will cover Bath v Ulster in round 1 as the first of their six free-to-air pool games. They will also cover Northampton and Leinster's back-to-back clashes and the meetings of Munster's pool rivals, Saracens and Ospreys, in rounds 3 and 5. Their round 6 fixture has yet to be announced.
The pool stage concludes on the second and third weekends of January 2020. The Stade de Marseille will host the final on Saturday, May 23.
Champions Cup 2019/20 pool fixtures for Irish provinces
(All kick-offs are Irish time)
Pool 3: Bath v Ulster, Recreation Ground (1pm); Pool 1: Leinster v Benetton, RDS Arena (3.15pm); Pool 4: Ospreys v Munster, Liberty Stadium (5.30pm)
Pool 5: Connacht v Montpellier, The Sportsground (1pm)
Pool 3: Ulster v Clermont Auvergne, Kingspan Stadium (7.45pm)
Pool 5: Toulouse v Connacht, Stade Ernest Wallon (1pm); Pool 1: Lyon v Leinster, Matmut Stadium de Gerland (3.15pm); Pool 4: Munster v Racing 92, Thomond Park (5.30pm)
Pool 1: Northampton Saints v Leinster, Franklin's Gardens (1pm); Pool 3: Ulster v Harlequins, Kingspan Stadium, (3.15pm); Pool 4: Munster v Saracens, Thomond Park (5.30pm)
Pool 5: Gloucester v Connacht, Kingsholm Stadium (1pm)
Pool 3: Harlequins v Ulster, Twickenham Stoop (7.45pm)
Pool 5: Connacht v Gloucester, The Sportsground (12.45pm); Pool 4: Saracens v Munster, Allianz Park (3pm); Pool 1: Leinster v Northampton Saints, Aviva Stadium (5.15pm)
Pool 4: Racing 92 v Munster, Paris La Defense Arena (TBC); Pool 3: Clermont Auvergne v Ulster, Stade Marcel-Michelin (TBC)
Pool 5: Connacht v Toulouse, The Sportsground (3.15pm)
Pool 1: Leinster v Lyon, RDS Arena (1pm)
Pool 1: Benetton v Leinster, Stadio Comunale di Monigo (1pm); Pool 3: Ulster v Bath, Kingspan Stadium (3.15pm)
Pool 4: Munster v Ospreys, Thomond Park (1pm); Pool 5: Montpellier v Connacht, GGL Stadium (3.15pm)