Ulster to face Northampton, Glasgow and Castres in Heineken Cup
Ulster will face Northampton, Glasgow Warriors and Castres in the Pool stages of next year's Heineken Cup.
Holders Leinster will have a repeat of this year's semi-final when they take on Clermont-Auvergne with the Scarlets and Exeter also in Pool 5.
Two-time champions Munster have been drawn against Edinburgh, Saracens and Racing Metro.
Connacht in their second Cup campaign will take on Biarritz, Harlequins and new Italian outfit Zebre.
Ulster's home and away clashes with Northampton will see them taking on the team that beat them in the 2010/11 quarter-finals.
This season's beaten finalists will also be up against recent Ravenhill departure Pedrie Wannenburg in Pool 4 after his move to Castres.
Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys had mixed feelings after the draw.
"It could have been better and it could have been worse," said Humphreys.
"There are two very difficult pools and there are a couple of pools which are probably a little bit easier.
Recent Heineken Cup winners
- 2012: Leinster (Ireland)
- 2011: Leinster (Ireland)
- 2010: Toulouse (France)
- 2009: Leinster (Ireland)
- 2008: Munster (Ireland)
- 2007: Wasps (England)
- 2006 : Munster (Ireland)
"All four teams will probably look at the pool and think they have a realistic chance of progressing.
"We played the Saints in the 2011 quarter-finals and witnessed first-hand how powerful a team they are.
"We know Glasgow really well from our league meetings and there is no doubt they are a team who are evolving and have shown dramatic improvement.
"Likewise Castres, who have just come off the back of a very good Top 14 campaign and have proved how difficult they are to beat."
Mark Anscombe will shortly take over as Ulster coach and will hold discussions with Humphreys about the targets for next season.
"But I would be very happy to say that after qualifying for the quarter finals for the past two years, one of our goals will be to get out of our pool again," said Humphreys.
"If we want continue to take steps forward, then that must be a minimum requirement."
Ulster will be boosted by the addition of Tommy Bowe and Roger Wilson to the squad.
In May, Leinster beat Ulster 42-14 in the Heineken Cup final to retain the trophy.
The final will be played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on 18 May 2013.
Pool One: Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens, Racing Metro 92
Pool Two: Toulouse, Leicester, Ospreys, Benetton Treviso
Pool Three: Biarritz, Harlequins, Connacht, Zebre
Pool Four: Northampton, Ulster, Glasgow Warriors, Castres
Pool Five: Leinster, Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets, Exeter
Pool Six: Cardiff Blues, Toulon, Sale, Montpellier