The fixtures for the 2017/18 European competitions were confirmed this week, with Cardiff Blues finding out their schedule in the Challenge Cup pool stage.
After the draw took place back on June 8th in Switzerland, Cardiff were drawn alongside Lyon, Sale Sharks and Toulouse in pool two, undoubtedly the group of death in this season’s second tier European competition.
Some two-and-a-half months after that draw, European Professional Club Rugby have finally sorted out the fixtures, confirming the games in rounds one through four, and providing the weekends when rounds five and six will be played.
First up for Cardiff Blues is the hosting of Top14 side Lyon on Friday 13th October with a 7pm kick-off in an untelevised game, before a trip to their French compatriots Toulouse the next Friday which will start at 8pm in the UK, 9pm local time.
This encounter will be shown live on France4, and is another chapter in the Cardiff v Toulouse history that includes the 2008/09 Heineken Cup quarter-final, and the 1996 Heineken Cup Final.
The December double header will be against Aviva Premiership side Sale Sharks, with the trip to Manchester up first on Saturday 9th December with a 3pm kick-off untelevised, before the return game the following Sunday at 3.15pm in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
After round four the fixtures for rounds five and six will be confirmed as the television companies make their picks for the deciding block of games in the pool stage.
Cardiff will host Toulouse at the Arms Park on the weekend of 11/12/13/14 January, before rounding off the pool stage by travelling to Lyon the following week.
Whether our competitors in pool two take the competition seriously or not it will still be a very difficult pool to get out of, with all three sides having squad depth that Danny Wilson can only dream of.
However, it’ll be a good chance to pit ourselves against the best in Europe outside of the Champions Cup, and a valuable dress rehearsal for returning to the top table of European rugby, as is the aim this season.
As ever, no matter how poorly EPCR treat us, Cardiff Blues fans will be out in force at CAP and across Europe. Likely in a pub somewhere. Come on Cardiff!!