Newcastle Falcons and Brive will continue their European Challenge Cup rivalry when the 13th season of the tournament kicks-off on the second weekend in October.
ERC, the tournament organisers, today (Monday, 23 June) announced the results of the draw for the composition of the five Pools of four teams each with Newcastle Falcons and Brive again going head-to-head for the fourth successive season.
The Falcons are 5-1 ahead in those meetings - including wins on French soil at the home of the 1997 Heineken Cup champions in the 2005 / 2006 and 2007 / 2008 tournaments - and the two clubs will contest Pool 4 along with Overmach Rugby Parma and Cetransa El Salvador.
Worcester Warriors, beaten finalists last month, are up against Bourgoin, Petrarca Rugby and Romanian side Bucuresti Oaks in Pool 3 while Connacht Rugby - who have played a record 77 European Challenge Cup matches - will contest Pool 1 with recent Heineken Cup semi-finalists London Irish along with and Rugby Rovigo, Dax* or Albi*.
Toulon, back in Europe for the first time since the 1999 / 2000 season, return in what is a strictly Anglo-French affair in Pool 2 against the 2000 Heineken Cup winners Northampton Saints, Bristol Rugby and Montpellier while Stade Montois claimed the final place in the tournament when they beat Racing Metro 32-23 in the Pro D2 play-off final last Saturday and joined Toulon in being promoted to next season's Top 14.
The draw was conducted using the new ERC European Ranking system based on the qualified teams' performances and participation in the Heineken Cup and knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup over the past four seasons.
The 20 teams who qualified for the 2008 / 2009 competition were graded into four Tiers of five teams each with each of the five Pools having one team from each of the four Tier levels. Teams from the same country were kept apart in the Pools with the exception of the sixth and seventh ranked teams in France (Toulon and Stade Montois Rugby) sixth ranked team in England (Bristol) who could be drawn with teams from the same country.
European Challenge Cup Pools 2008 / 2009
POOL 1: London Irish, Connacht Rugby, Dax*/Albi*, Rugby Rovigo POOL 2: Northampton Saints, Bristol Rugby, Montpellier, Toulon POOL 3: Bourgoin, Worcester Warriors, Petrarca Rugby, Bucuresti Oaks POOL 4: Newcastle Falcons, Brive, Overmach Rugby Parma, Cetransa El Salvador POOL 5: Saracens, Viadana, Bayonne, Stade Montois Rugby
*The participation of Dax*/ Albi* is subject to confirmation from the LNR & FFR.