European Champions Cup draw: Ulster to face Clermont, Harlequins and Bath

Ulster's Luke Marshall tackles Clermont's Scott Spedding during the pool match at Kingspan Stadium in December 2016
Ulster shared the spoils with Clermont in pool matches during the competition in 2016-17

Ulster will face Top 14 runners-up Clermont Auvergne plus English clubs Harlequins and Bath in their European Champions Cup pool next season.

Clermont won this season's European Challenge Cup as well as reaching the French final while Quins and Bath were fifth and sixth in the Premiership.

This year's beaten finalists Leinster face Lyon, Northampton and Benetton.

Munster will face holders Saracens, Racing 92 and Ospreys with Top 14 winners Toulouse in Connacht's pool.

Andy Friend's side will also be up against Gloucester and another French club Montpellier.

Ulster last faced Clermont in the pool stages of the 2016-17 competition when the Irish province defeated the French outfit 39-32 at Kingspan Stadium before losing 38-19 in back-to-back contests just before Christmas.

The home success over eventual pool winners Clermont was one of only two Ulster's wins in that season's competition as they also finished behind Bordeaux and Exeter in the group.

However after a number of disappointing campaigns, Ulster showed distinct improvement this season as they reached the last eight in Europe before being narrowly beaten by Leinster and also made the semi-finals in the Pro14.

On paper, Lyon look Leinster's toughest opponents in Pool One having made the Top 14 semi-finals although Northampton also reached the English Premiership semi-finals while Benetton became the first Italian club to secure a place in the Pro14 play-offs, where they were decidedly unlucky to lose to Munster in the quarter-finals.

Munster face the unenviable task of taking on holders and Premiership champions Saracens after being well beaten 32-16 by Mark McCall's side in this season's European semi-finals.

Racing 92's positioning in Pool Four means Simon Zebo and another ex-Munster favourite Donnacha Ryan will both return to face their former team-mates at Thomond Park.

The French club finished fourth in the Top 14 table before being surprised by La Rochelle in the quarter-finals.

Munster's other opponents Ospreys clinched the only Welsh spot in next season's competition by beating Scarlets 21-10 in a European play-off last month.

Connacht will also face a tough task as they take on this season's European semi-finalists and Top 14 winners Toulouse, with Gloucester having finished a strong third in the Premiership table and Montpellier reaching the quarter-finals in the French domestic competition.

Heineken European Champions Cup Pools
Pool OneLeinsterLyonNorthamptonBenetton
Pool TwoExeterGlasgowLa RochelleSale
Pool ThreeClermont AuvergneUlsterHarlequinsBath
Pool FourSaracensMunsterRacing 92Ospreys
Pool FiveToulouseGloucesterConnacht Montpellier

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