MUNSTER are set for a reunion with former hero and coach Jerry Flannery after this afternoon's 2020-21 Heineken Champions Cup pool draw paired the province with Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne.
There will be a new and one-off format for this season’s competition, expanded to 24 teams, divided into two pools of 12 but with the rounds in the first phase of the tournament reduced from six to four and each club facing only two opponents home and away when it gets underway in December.
It means teams will not face rivals from their own leagues in the pool stages with the four highest-ranked clubs from each pool qualifying for the two-legged quarter-finals while those ranked five to eight in each pool move into a Round of 16 for the Challenge Cup.
Munster, in Pool B and in Tier 2 of the rankings face two clubs from the same pool but ranked in Tier 3 based on the league finishes last season but there will b no less of a challenge for Johann van Graan’s men with home and away clashes against old rivals Clermont and 2013 quarter-final opponents Harlequins, for whom Flannery, who left as Munster forwards coach in the summer of 2019, is lineout coach under Paul Gustard.
PRO14 champions Leinster, in Tier 1, have drawn Tier 4 sides Montpellier and Northampton Saints as their opponents in Pool A while in Pool B alongside Munster, Tier 1 and losing PRO14 finalists Ulster, will be reunited with their European quarter-final conquerors of last season Toulouse, and Gloucester.
Connacht in Tier 4 have a tough draw for their campaign, facing a familiar foe in Pool B in former head coach Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears, who number John Muldoon as their forwards coach, as well as 2020 runners-up Racing 92.
Exeter, who lifted the trophy at Racing’s expense 11 days ago, will play Toulouse and Glasgow.
This season’s tournament kicks off with the first of four pool-stage rounds on the weekend of December 11-13 with the final set for Marseille’s Velodrome on May 22, 2021.