European Champions Cup: Ulster handed Clermont test

Ulster and Clermont Avergne met in the 2011/12 Heineken Cup
Ulster and Clermont Avergne met in the 2011/12 Heineken Cup

Ulster have been drawn to play Clermont Avergne, Bordeaux and Exeter in the European Champions Cup pool stage for the 2016/17 season.

The Belfast side met French club Clermont in the 2011/12 competition with Ulster winning at Ravenhill before losing the return game.

Leinster will take on Montpellier, Northampton and Castres while Munster face Racing 92, Glasgow and Leicester.

Pro12 champions Connacht go up against Wasps, Toulouse and Zebre.

Ulster have been handed tough pools in recent years and director of rugby Les Kiss believes it will another battle to make the quarter-finals.

European Champions Cup draw

"It is a difficult pool, for sure. But we were expecting that because it's a really tough competition," he said.

"The three teams will pose great challenges but it's something we're excited about.

"All teams in the pool like to play an attractive brand of rugby, so it should be good to watch from a supporter's perspective as well."

The draw will mean a return to Ulster for Exeter Chiefs captain Gareth Steenson and Ian Whitten, who earned 63 caps for the province between 2008 and 2012.

Exeter, coached by Rob Baxter, have been one of the success stories of European rugby in recent years and enjoyed a remarkable season in 2015/16, reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and the final of the English Premiership.

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Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss

Clermont have been one of the giants of the European game but they are still without a triumph in Europe's elite competition.

Indeed, they suffered recent heartbreak when they lost the finals in 2012/13 and 2014/15, both at the hands of Toulon.

Their playing roster is jam-packed with French internationals including Morgan Parra, Wesley Fofana and Aurélien Rougerie.

Bordeaux will also be strong, having recruited Ireland fly-half Ian Madigan to join a squad that already includes the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Jean-Baptiste Poux.