Munster officials are hoping for an “attractive and competitive” pool ahead of today’s Champions Cup draw. The southern province could be among the top seeds, with a preliminary draw taking place to determine seeding for the pool draw.
With teams ranked based on domestic league performance, the PRO12, English and French champions, the Scarlets, Exeter Chiefs and Clermont Auvergne, are guaranteed places in tier one of the draw. Two of the league runners-up, Munster, Wasps and Toulon, will be added to that top tier. However, top seeding doesn’t guarantee avoiding the tournament favourites Saracens. The two-time champions, who are unbeaten in 18 European games, are in tier two due to losing their Premiership semi-final to Exeter.
Semi-finalists Leinster will join Saracens in a daunting second tier for the pool draw. Ulster will be in tier three, although no Irish teams can be drawn in the same pool.
Each of the five pools will include one team from all four tiers, but must also feature a representative from all three European leagues.
At the Munster Branch AGM last night, Head of Finance and Operations Philip Quinn was looking forward to the draw with both the playing and financial implications in mind.
“You’re looking at on-pitch and you’re looking at off-pitch in the financials. At this stage there’s no easy matches in Europe. It’s a good draw if it’s attractive and competitive.”
His colleague Honorary Treasurer Tom Kinirons said: “There’s so much criteria in terms of keeping provinces apart, keeping PRO12 teams apart, you’d nearly want a degree to work through it.
“I saw the parameters and it’ll be fun watching the draw to see exactly how they draw them out. But there are no easy games.”
With a hearty laugh, he added: “I’d prefer on-pitch to be more important as a supporter but my head is telling me no.” Connacht are one of five teams from last year’s competition who have to settle for places in the Challenge Cup.
Like Munster, Connacht could be in either tier one or two, depending on a preliminary draw with Brive and Gloucester. Champions Stade Francais, Cardiff Blues and Newcastle Falcons are guaranteed tier one seeding.
They will be joined in the draw by two pool stage debutants, four-time European champions Toulouse and Russian side Krasny Yar. The Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk is the only city to have two representatives in the draw, with Enisei-STM also qualified.
The draws takes place in Neuchatel, Switzerland, the Challenge Cup drawn at 1pm (Irish time) and the Champions Cup draw at 1.20pm. They will be streamed live on epcrugby.com.
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