Newcomers Connacht have the honour of opening this year’s Heineken Cup.
Friday November 11 signals the start of the 2011 tournament and first up is Connacht who will be up against Harlequins at the Stoop at 8pm in pool 6. Also on that evening is the pool 2 fixture between Racing Metro and Cardiff Blues.
However the big clash for Connacht fans and the Galway Sportsground is the visit of European blue-bloods Toulouse. This mouthwatering fixture will take place in the second round on Saturday November 18 at 6pm.
Four weeks later, in the two pre-Christmas rounds, Connacht have the two back-to-back fixtures with Gloucester - the first at home on Saturday December 10 at 1.30pm before the return visit to England on December 17 at 3.40pm. All four matches will be broadacast on Sky.
The two post-Christmas fixtures have yet to be finalised, but the much-awaited fans’ trip to France will take place over the weekend of January 13/14/15 in Toulouse. Round six and the final match sees Harlequins return to the Sportsground on the weekend of January 20/21/22.
Connacht had hoped to face Toulouse at home early in the campaign and coach Eric Elwood is delighted to have drawn a home fixture with Toulouse in the second round.
“Ideally I would have liked to started our first Heineken Cup tournament with a home draw, but to have Toulouse as our first home fixture is terrific and really exciting for all our fans who have been looking forward to this.”
However Elwood says the fixture list of both the Heineken Cup and RaboDirect Pro12 (Celtic League ), not yet released, will provide Connacht with some difficulties.
“It is quite possible we will be travelling to Italy to face Aironi the week before we travel to Toulouse, which would not be ideal, and there will be occasions when we will be stretched in terms of logistics, recovery, and personnel. However having Toulouse as our first home fixture of the tournament is a great start to what will be a tough campaign.”
Fixtures for the newly named Celtic League, Rabodirect Pro 12, are due to be released this week.
A draft schedule has been sent to all participants, but some changes are expected to be made to be made following the Heineken Cup draw. Based on the draft, Connacht have a tough opening month with a cluster of three away matches to Treviso, Edinburgh, and Ospreys, but more home matches are scheduled for the latter half of the season, finishing with a fixture against Glasgow. Connacht must also travel to Ulster before opening their Heineken Cup away to Harlequins.
Heineken Cup fixtures:
ROUND 1, FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11, Pool 6 Harlequins v Connacht Rugby 20.00
ROUND 2: SATURDAY NOVEMBER 19, Pool 6 Connacht Rugby v Toulouse 18.00
ROUND 3: SATURDAY DECEMBER 10, Pool 6 Connacht Rugby v Gloucester Rugby
ROUND 4: SATURDAY DECEMBER 17, Pool 6 Gloucester Rugby v Connacht Rugby 15.40.
ROUND 5: JANUARY 13/14/15 Pool 6 Toulouse v Connacht Rugby
ROUND 6: JANUARY 20/21/22 Pool 6 Gloucester Rugby v Toulouse