The Rugby’s On - Episode 9Jan 25
Heineken Champions Cup pool stage draw: Bath and Wasps handed nightmare starts
The northern hemisphere's premier club competition resumes on BT Sport, as European rugby's 24 best teams learn their fate.
The draw for the pool stage of the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup has been made ahead of the start of the new season.
The battle to be crowned kings of Europe will be played over nine weekends, with four rounds of pool stage action commencing on Friday 10 December.
The eight highest-ranked teams from each pool will advance to the knockout stage, which will consist of a round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals and semi-finals.
The final will take place in Marseille next May and as ever BT Sport will be your home of the competition throughout, showing every game live.
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All eyes will be on Toulouse as they look to go back-to-back in Europe for the first time in their illustrious history.
The Top 14 giants won an all-French affair against La Rochelle at Twickenham to claim a fifth European Cup and make them the most successful club in the competition's history.
Can Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle go one better after falling short last season and how will Exeter Chiefs bounce back after losing both Premiership and Champions Cup crowns in the same year?
With the pools set, each club knows which two teams they will face, but fixtures and TV schedule are yet to be confirmed.
Heineken Champions Cup: Pool A (with opponents in brackets)
La Rochelle (Bath Rugby, Glasgow Warriors)
Exeter Chiefs (Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Glasgow Warriors)
Leinster Rugby (Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Bath Rugby)
Racing 92 (Northampton Saints, Ospreys)
Sale Sharks (Clermont, Ospreys)
Ulster Rugby (Clermont, Northampton Saints)
Clermont (Sale Sharks, Ulster Rugby)
Northampton Saints (Racing 92, Ulster Rugby)
Ospreys (Racing 92, Sale Sharks)
Montpellier Hérault Rugby (Exeter Chiefs, Leinster Rugby)
Bath Rugby (La Rochelle, Leinster Rugby)
Glasgow Warriors (La Rochelle, Exeter Chiefs)
Heineken Champions Cup: Pool B (with opponents in brackets)
Toulouse (Wasps, Cardiff Rugby)
Harlequins (Castres Olympique, Cardiff Rugby)
Munster Rugby (Castres Olympique, Wasps)
Bordeaux Begles (Leicester Tigers, Scarlets)
Bristol Bears (Stade Français Paris, Scarlets)
Connacht Rugby (Stade Français Paris, Leicester Tigers)
Stade Français Paris (Bristol Bears, Connacht Rugby)
Leicester Tigers (Bordeaux Bègles, Connacht Rugby)
Scarlets (Bordeaux Bègles, Bristol Bears)
Castres Olympique (Harlequins, Munster Rugby)
Wasps (Toulouse, Munster Rugby)
Cardiff Rugby (Toulouse, Harlequins)
How does the pool stage work?
The 24 teams were drawn into two pools of 12 which were then split into four tiers of three clubs.
Each pool sees tier-one sides face tier-four teams, while clubs in tier two play against sides in tier three.
Each pool's tier has three clubs, one each from the Premiership, Pro14 and Top 14, with the tiers determined by domestic standings.
In the pool stage, teams do not face opponents from the same domestic league, meaning a tier-one Premiership club will only play the Pro14 and Top 14 teams in tier four.
The pool stages will start in December, with teams facing each other home and away - and so each playing four games.
There's plenty of English interest in this year's expanded format, with eight Premiership sides vying for a place in the knockout rounds.
In pool A, Exeter Chiefs will be looking to put last season's semi-final defeat to Leinster behind them with strong showings against Montpellier and Glasgow Warriors as they target a second European crown.
2013 finalists Northampton Saints face tricky assignments against Racing 92 and Ulster, while Sale Sharks will face off against Heineken Cup nearly men Clermont and Ospreys.
Bath face two daunting encounters with four-time champions Leinster and last season's runners-up La Rochelle.
Over in pool B, two-time winners Wasps have been handed a nightmare draw with games against defending champions Toulouse and Irish giants Munster.
Leicester Tigers return to European rugby's top table will be against Top 14 outfit Bordeaux and Connacht in a favourable draw for Steve Borthwick's men.
Newly-crowned Premiership champions Harlequins will face off against Castres and Cardiff for a place in the last 16, while 2020 Challenge Cup winners Bristol play Stade Francais and Scarlets.
For full details of BT Sport's upcoming live rugby schedule, including the Gallagher Premiership, check out our What's on BT Sport page.