Ulster open Heineken Cup campaign at home to Castres

Ruan Pienaar

Heineken Cup finalists Ulster will begin this season's competition with a home tie against Castres Olympique on Friday October 12 at Ravenhill (20:00).

They play Glasgow away the following week, before back-to-back games against Northampton Saints on December 7 and 15, the away tie coming first.

Their Pool 4 campaign will end in January with a home tie against Glasgow followed by Castres away.

Champions Leinster will open their hat-trick bid at home to Exeter Chiefs.

The three-time winners, who have won the tournament in 2009, 2011 and 2012, then face Scarlets away before two mouth-watering fixtures against their great French rivals ASM Clermont Auvergne.

Leinster beat Clermont in a nerve-jangling Heineken Cup semi-final in France last season before beating Ulster in the final at Twickenham.

They host Clermont at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 15 December.

Munster begin their campaign in the Stade de France against Racing Metro 92 before hosting Edinburgh Rugby at Thomond Park on Sunday 21 October.

Connacht begin their campaign against the new Parma-based Italian franchise, Zebre, at Stadio XXV on Saturday 13 October.

Heineken Cup fixtures:

Round 1

Pool 1 Racing Metro 92 v Munster Rugby (Saturday 13 October, Stade de France 14:35)

Pool 3 Zebre v Connacht Rugby (Saturday 13 October, Stadio XXV Aprile 14:35)

Pool 4 Ulster Rugby v Castres Olympique (Friday 12 October, Ravenhill 20:00)

Pool 5 Leinster Rugby v Exeter Chiefs (Saturday 13 October, RDS 15:40)

Round 2

Pool 1 Munster Rugby v Edinburgh Rugby (Sunday 21 October, Thomond Park 12:45)

Pool 3 Connacht Rugby v Harlequins (Saturday 20 October, The Sportsground 18:00)

Pool 4 Glasgow Warriors v Ulster Rugby (Friday 19 October, Scotstoun Stadium 20:00)

Pool 5 Scarlets v Leinster Rugby (Saturday 20 October, Parc y Scarlets 13:35)

Round 3

Pool 1 Munster Rugby v Saracens (Saturday 8 December, Thomond Park 18:00)

Pool 3 Connacht Rugby v Biarritz Olympique (Friday 7 December, The Sportsground 20:00)

Pool 4 Northampton Saints v Ulster Rugby (Friday 7 December, Franklin's Gardens 20:00)

Pool 5 ASM Clermont Auvernge v Leinster Rugby (Sunday 9 December, St Marcel Michelin 16:00)

Round 4

Pool 1 Saracens v Munster Rugby (Sunday 16 December, London venue tbc 15:00)

Pool 3 Biarritz Olympique v Connacht Rugby (Friday 14 December, Parc des Sports Aguilera 21:00)

Pool 4 Ulster Rugby v Northampton Saints (Saturday 15 December, Ravenhill 18:00)

Pool 5 Leinster Rugby v ASM Clermont Auvergne (Saturday 15 December, Aviva Stadium 15:40)